PITTSBURGH (Ticker) — With each passing game, the chances of
the Pittsburgh Penguins missing the playoffs continue to grow.
A thrilling comeback could be the perfect tonic.
All-Star Evgeni Malkin scored two goals – including the
game-winner with 16 seconds remaining in overtime – and added an
assist as the Penguins overcame a three-goal deficit in their
4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
Defenseman Mark Eaton tallied in the third period and Petr
Sykora forged a 3-3 tie with 3:29 left in regulation for the
Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
“We showed a lot of character in the third,” Pittsburgh captain
Sidney Crosby said. “It was frustrating in the first couple of
periods. We had a lot of power plays and some pretty good
chances, and we didn’t put them in.
“Finally, (we) kept pushing, got some bounces there in the third
and finished it in overtime.”
Martin St. Louis and fellow All-Star Vincent Lecavalier each
scored a goal and set up another while former Penguin Ryan
Malone also tallied for the Lightning, who have dropped four in
“There’s a lot of good signs still,” Tampa Bay interim coach
Rick Tocchet said. “We’ve struggled on a couple things, but
there’s some good pieces here, definitely.”
The Penguins entered with a dismal 9-17-1 record since December
4, collecting the second-fewest amount of points in the NHL over
that span. However, Malkin woke up his slumbering team by
beginning its comeback with a backhander 2:25 into the third,
cutting the deficit to 3-1.
“(Malkin) really took the game over at a crucial time,”
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. “You could see the fire
in his eyes. He was ready to do everything in his power to try
to win this hockey game.”
Eaton brought the Penguins within 3-2 by firing a wrist shot
past goaltender Mike McKenna with 5:54 remaining.
After former Penguin Gary Roberts was whistled for roughing,
Sykora evened the game late in the session, gathering a loose
puck in front of the net and pushing it under the pads of
McKenna, who accidentally kicked it over the goal line.
“We’ve got to build on that,” Sykora said. “If we’re going to
come out flat the next couple of games, it’s not going to mean
anything. We have to build on this win tonight, especially when
you come back in the third.
“It doesn’t matter who you play. It feels good, it gives
confidence to the guys, to the person and the team, too.”
Malkin finally lifted Pittsburgh to its second win in six games
by unleashing a wrister from in front of the net over the
shoulder of McKenna.
“We talked after the second period and said, ‘Let’s go guys, we
have to shoot the puck,'” Malkin said. “I’m mad because we’re
After the game, Crosby wondered if Malkin’s efforts could be the
start of a season-saving run for the Penguins.
“You always look back at seasons and look at turning points,”
Crosby said. “Hopefully, this is one for us. It was a big
character-builder for everyone, and everyone was a part of it.
We need to just build off of this now.”
Malone, whose rights were traded to Tampa Bay along with
Roberts’ in the offseason, opened the scoring with 4:35 left in
the first. St. Louis registered his 19th goal of the season
exactly five minutes into the second session to double the
Lecavalier ballooned the Lightning’s cushion to 3-0 with three
minutes left in the second, but Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre
Fleury was impenetrable the rest of the way.
Fleury finished with 21 saves, while McKenna stopped 31 shots in
his first career start.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s my first game or my 300th game. We
lost,” the 25-year-old McKenna said. “We were up 3-0 on a team
going into the third period and then we didn’t play well. I let
in too many goals. It’s not good enough.
“You can’t let in three goals in the third period and then one
in OT and expect to give your team a chance to win. It’s not