Malkin powers Penguins past Thrashers

By Phil Foley
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) — Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins
were happy to have Marc-Andre Fleury back in the fold.

Malkin recorded two goals and two assists and Fleury steered
aside 28 shots in his first game back in a month as the Penguins
scored three times in the second period and cruised to a 6-3
triumph over the listless Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday.

Jordan Staal netted a goal and an assist and Miroslav Satan
added his 12th tally for the Penguins, who won for just the
second time in six games.

“It was good (to be back),” Fleury said. “I was excited for the
game. It’s good to be back with the guys. It was fun to win

Without its No. 1 goaltender Fleury, Pittsburgh had struggled in
December, winning just twice in seven games entering its tilt
against the Thrashers.

Fleury returned to the ice on Thursday after missing 13 games
with a back injury.?? The 24-year-old Pittsburgh netminder, who
led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, was back
making acrobatic saves. And the Penguins were back to their
winning ways.

“We were hoping for a solid game (from Fleury),” Pittsburgh
coach Michel Therrien said. “I thought he was phenomenal. He
made key save after key save early in the game.”

Of course, it helped that his club scored early and often
against the lowly Thrashers, who have just three wins since
November 14.

Matt Cooke whistled a wrister from the left faceoff circle
between the net and the right blocker of Atlanta netminder
Ondrej Pavelec to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead just 5:23 into the

Malkin muscled past Todd White and deposited the puck into the
empty left side of the net at the 9:40 mark of the first period
on Pittsburgh’s fourth shot of the night as an ominous trend
continued for the home team at the place they call “Blueland.”

Four shots on net.?? Atlanta was down by two.

At least it was better start than Pavelec’s than last time here,
when he allowed three goals on four shots against the Boston
Bruins last Friday.

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“We played a good game, but we played a good game against Boston
and lost 7-3 (last Friday),” Thrashers coach John Anderson said.
“We have to play excellent. We can’t let any mistakes creep
into our game or else we pay for it.”

Marty Reasoner halved the deficit with 38 seconds remaining in
the first.?? Kovalchuk’s shot from the left point deflected off
of the body of Reasoner, who was thrown into Pittsburgh
blueliner Brooks Orpik by captain Sidney Crosby.

A melee ensued in front of the net with the Pittsburgh superstar
picking up a rare roughing penalty.

But the Penguins held Atlanta at bay on the ensuing power play
and took control in with a pair of second-period tallies.??

Staal restored Pittsburgh’s two-goal cushion, deflecting
Malkin’s slap shot from the right point 3:30 into the second
period before Satan put the Penguins up three with a backhanded
tally from the slot just over two minutes later.


Malkin, who leads the league with 53 points and 39 assists, also
set up Pittsburgh’s fifth goal, setting up defenseman Philippe
Boucher to give the Penguins a 5-2 lead at 8:04 of the middle

“Malkin played an outstanding game,” Therrien said. “It’s nice
to see a player like that paying attention to detail and getting

Frank Sinatra’s ominous power ballad “That’s Life” cascaded from
Philips Arena sound system after the tally.

Pavelec, who stopped just eight of 13 shots, was through.

Johan Hedberg set aside six shots in relief of Pavelec.

Malkin added an empty net tally with 26 seconds remaining for
the final margin of victory.

Bryan Little and former Penguin Colby Armstrong added tallies
for Atlanta, which fell to 1-13-2 against the top seven clubs in
the NHL.

“There have been games this year when we have started then
stopped,” Hedberg said. “What we need to do is keep the train

“You can’t afford to stop against teams like (Pittsburgh). They
are too good. They are going to make you pay and they did