ATLANTA – Evgeni Malkin’s sixth career hat trick didn’t impress him that much. His contribution to Pittsburgh’s special teams was more meaningful.
“This was my first power-play (goal) of the season, and I hope it’s not my last,” Malkin said. “We moved the puck well tonight.”
Malkin scored three times, Sidney Crosby added a goal and two assists and the Penguins beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-2 Saturday night for their second straight victory.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury won his second consecutive start, improving to 3-6-0 after stopping 34 shots.
Malkin and Crosby added to their career dominance of Atlanta. Crosby has 28 points, including eight goals, in 19 games against the Thrashers. Malkin has 27 points, including nine goals, in 17 games.
“They’re not both just talented but they’re strong,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “Malkin is a monster, and Crosby is as strong on the puck as there is.”
After tying the score 1-1 13:22 into the second period, Malkin made it 3-1 on the power play by controlling a ricochet off the rear boards and tapping in his own rebound with 15:18 left. Malkin’s seventh goal of the season was an empty-netter.
Crosby put Pittsburgh ahead 2-1 by redirecting a shot from Deryk Engelland for his 12th goal, but he credited the power-play work of Malkin as being more important in the big picture.
“It was a big boost,” said Crosby, whose six goals and six assists over the last five games increased his season points total to 27. “Obviously, (Malkin) had some great chances these last few games. Usually, it’s just a matter of getting one or two and they all seem to come.”
The Penguins improved to 30-9-2 against Atlanta, which led 1-0 on defenceman Brent Sopel’s first goal of the season.
Niclas Bergfors’ fifth goal cut the lead to 3-2 for the Thrashers, who have one victory in their last five games. Bergfors tapped in the puck from the left side of the crease after receiving Evander Kane’s backhand pass from the rear boards.
Pittsburgh appears to have bounced back from a 7-4 loss Wednesday, when Boston scored five unanswered goals in the third period.
One of the biggest differences is Fleury, who hadn’t won in regulation this season before Friday’s victory over Tampa Bay.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is encouraged that the same Fleury who helped Pittsburgh win the 2009 Stanley Cup title looks rejuvenated.
“(The Thrashers) had a couple of great chances,” Byslma said, “and coming back after last night’s game, you could sense you were going to get a great game from Marc.”
Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec dropped to 0-5 against the Penguins. He stopped 24 of 27 shots.
“Those guys don’t need many chances to score goals,” Pavelec said. “They may be the best players in the NHL. It’s tough to play them for 60 minutes, but if we want to make the playoffs, we need to shut down those guys.”
Arron Asham assisted on Malkin’s first goal, a wrist shot he took from the bottom of the right circle.
Notes: The Thrashers, who visit Washington on Sunday, won the season opener against the Capitals but were winless in six tries against their Southeast Division rivals last season. … Thrashers C Bryan Little took two shots and won five of seven faceoffs in returning for the first time in six games after sustaining a concussion and facial lacerations. … Atlanta LW Freddy Modin left in the first period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return.