Evgeni Malkin returned after missing a week to help the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night. Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby combined for a goal and an assist apiece, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves on 28 shots to hold on for the win.
Steven Stamkos scored twice in the game, bringing his league leading goals total to 17. The 2-1 lead going into the third period wasn’t enough for the struggling Lightning, who have now lost five games in a row. Tampa Bay’s last win came back on February 23, a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes who currently hold the Southeast Division lead.
Mathieu Garon started in net for the Lightning but was replaced by Anders Linback early in the second period due to a lower-back injury. Lindback made 16 saves but was no match for the likes of Malkin and Crosby.
Two minutes after last year’s MVP Evgeni Malkin lit the lamp, Sidney Crosby found the back of the net to give the Penguins the lead for good. James Neal added an empty-netter within the last minute of the game before Steven Stamkos scored his second as time was running out.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher was not happy with the early third period goal by Malkin.
“We gave it to him,” Boucher said after the game. “That’s unacceptable.”
The Lightning now lead the Southeast Division with 12 regulation losses and are only a game ahead of the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers for third place. The Pittsburgh Penguins are going in a much better direction, leading the Atlantic Division by five points while having the most wins in the Eastern Conference.
Evgeni Malkin’s return proved his natural talent once again as a week off due to a concussion had no affect on his play. In 19 games, Malkin has 23 points but only five goals.
Sidney Crosby is off to a great start, with 36 points in 23 games. Crosby’s 36 points is good enough for first in the league, while teammate Chris Kunitz has the highest plus-minus rating in the NHL, at plus-17.
The Tampa Bay Lightning take on the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, who have also lost five straight games. The Penguins are off until Thursday, when they meet up with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins rally gives them two straight wins heading into Thursday’s rivalry match as the race for the NHL playoffs begins to heat up.