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Penguins Vs. Thrashers: Evgeni Malkin's Hat Trick Powers Pens Past Thrashers 4-2

Friday night's big win was a boost for Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins. And they threw him right back into the fire for the second game in two nights for this game in Atlanta. It worked out for the Flower, who now has 66% of his season win total in about the last 28 hours.

The Pens again allowed the game’s first goal, which seems to be the trend this season. Brent Sopel threw a puck on net and Fleury was screened by Zbynek Michalek and tough guy Eric Boulton. The puck seemed to take a ricohet off someone, but Sopel was credited with the goal. The lead would stand through the first, but then the Pens would take over.

Just 2:21 into the second, Evgeni Malkin and Arron Asham worked a give-and-go that saw Malkin beat Ondrej Pavalec 5-hole to tie it up. Sidney Crosby scored a magnificent re-direct goal off a Deryk Engelland shot give Pittsburgh the lead they’d never give up. Then on the power play, Malkin finished off a rebound of a Paul Martin shot, after a nice board pass from Crosby fed Martin to make it 3-1.

Notorious Penguin killer Niclas Bergfors would score to make it 3-2, but Malkin ended the drama with an empty net goal to record his 6th career hat trick. A few more thoughts:

-Evgeni Malkin scored 10 points playing mainly on the wing in his first 14 games. He now has six points playing at center in the last three games. Malkin is obviously more effective in his natural position, and let’s hope he’ll stay there.
Crosby and Malkin combined for four goals, three assists and a +4 on the night, and obviously had a hand in every goal. The rest of the team totalled no goals, five assists and a +1. The best players have to be the best players, especially when you play on the second night in a row, and tonight the big boys definitely carried their weight.

-Sidney Crosby has multiple points in five straight games. To have a five-game point streak is one thing. To consistently get multi-point efforts is quite another. Crosby is currently tied with Tampa’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL point lead with 27.

-Speaking of leaders, Kris Letang recorded an assist to tie him with Detroit’s ageless Nicklas Lidstrom for top point-getters among defensemen, with 17. Right behind them is Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien with 16. Big Buff has seamlessly slid back to defense with the Thrashers and he played a game-high 25:16 tonight and got seven shots on goal. It's amazing to watch a guy that big be so versatile compared to his role in the Stanley Cup run with Chicago last summer.

-Fleury was solid, only beaten by two crazy shots and got 31 of 33 saves. The Pens only scored one goal in the first 42 minutes and he clearly held them in the game with a bunch of terrific stops.

-Craig Adams was a -2 on the night, but his four hits included several jarring collisions that definitely made everyone take notice. Adams also played 4:18 short-handed (tops among Pens forwards) for a unit that did not surrender a goal. Big time stuff for No. 27 there.

-Niclas Bergfors now has five goals in seven career games against the Penguins and 22 goals in 97 games against everyone else. Yeah, we get it already.

The Pens now get one day off before three home games in five days next week. Their franchise goalie is back on track and their superstars are filling the net. Time will tell if this is a turning point in the season or just a momentary rush, but the former champs now have to have a lot of confidence given the results of the past two nights of hockey.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.