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Malkin Magic: He Gets Shootout Winner Against Flames, 2-1

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Evgeni Malkin shootout winner Calgary

The Pittsburgh Penguins might have been a bit surprised — and more than a little relieved — when they learned they wouldn’t have to contend with Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night.

With good reason.

Markstrom, after all, had rejected 98 of the 100 shots he faced in his previous three starts against the Penguins, who could be forgiven for wondering if it would be easier to get pucks through a chain-link fence than past Markstrom.

Turns out, though, that coach Darryl Sutter’s decision to use Dan Vladar instead wasn’t as curious as it appeared to be at first blush.

Vladar, who had earned his first NHL victory at PPG Paints Arena while playing for Boston, turned aside 37 of 38 Penguins shots during regulation and another in overtime.

“He played really well,” Sidney Crosby said. “Both goalies were good. … He kept them in it.”

Vladar didn’t fare well during the shootout in which the outcome was settled, though, and Evgeni Malkin beat him in Round 4 to give the Penguins a 2-1 victory, extending their winning streak to four games.

“It was huge — and fitting — that we got the finish that we did,” Crosby said. “It was perfect. You wouldn’t want anyone else with the opportunity to win the game.”

Malkin’s shootout-ending goal put an exclamation point on the night when the home crowd celebrated him appearing in his 1,000th NHL game, three nights earlier in Chicago.

“He plays his best when the stakes are high,” Mike Sullivan said. “There couldn’t have been a more fitting end for his 1,000th-game celebration.”

Rickard Rakell and Crosby scored on Vladar in the first and second rounds of the shootout, while he stopped Jake Guentzel in the third.

Vladar’s Penguins counterpart, Tristan Jarry, also had an excellent showing, stopping 34 shots during regulation and overtime, and two of four during the shootout.

Although the opening faceoff was delayed about 10 minutes by a pregame ceremony honoring Malkin, the Penguins were ready when play finally started.

Jan Rutta gave them a 1-0 lead just 2:09 into the game, as he threw a shot past Vladar’s stick from the high slot, near the top of the circles. Jeff Carter and Danton Heinen got assists.

The goal was Rutta’s third of the season, tying him with Jeff Petry for the team lead among defensemen and putting him halfway to matching his career-high, set as a rookie in Chicago in 2017-18. Rutta scored three with Tampa Bay last season, his personal-best since putting up that half-dozen for the Blackhawks.

“He’s helping us, offensively,” Sullivan said. “He’s doing a real good job getting pucks through, from the blue line. He’s joining the rush when he gets the opportunity. … The fact he’s chipped in offensively, with three goals in the first 20 games, is huge for us. Certainly, it should give him a big boost of confidence.”

Malkin appeared to cap an outstanding effort by setting up linemate Bryan Rust for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ second goal at 9:34, but Calgary immediately challenged that the play had been offside, and a video review confirmed that Jason Zucker did not leave the Flames’ end before play re-entered it.

Malkin had picked off a cross-ice pass near the Flames’ blue line, then carried the puck behind Calgary’s goal line before feeding a pass to Rust in the right circle.

Vladar made several strong saves, including a point-blank stop on Rakell during the first minute of the second period, to keep the Flames within a goal, and Dillon Dube rewarded him by deflecting a Chris Tanev shot past Jarry at 8:37 of the second.

Vladar preserved the tie with just under five minutes to go before the intermission, denying Brock McGinn as he broke down the right side alone after taking a feed from Rust. He subsequently denied Carter after he got behind the Calgary defense at 4:39 of the third.

But for all the quality stops Vladar made during regulation and overtime, it seemed inevitable that Malkin would get a shot past him when the opportunity arose during the shootout.

“It was kind of a perfect scenario,” Kris Letang said. “A perfect ending.”

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Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
10 days ago

GENO!!!

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
10 days ago

The crowd was electric after the bad call on Malkin. It was so refreshing to have the boos replace the irritating woos. We had a goaltending exhibition tonight. Happy Thanksgiving all!

Alan Smith
10 days ago

A great presentation to begin and a great ending! Boring as hell in between! 2 points though!

Kris
Kris
10 days ago
Reply to  Alan Smith

Really? I thought that was one of the best games of the year for the entire 65+ minutes. I guess you are one of those “I need 6 to 5 games to be happy” guys.

If the Calgary goalie doesn’t stand on his head, Pens would have had at least 4 goals.

Rob
Rob
10 days ago

Why wasn’t Rakell out on the power play at some point in the overtime but Rust out for almost or entire time?

Rob
Rob
10 days ago

In the shootout Crosby’s shot was the best of the bunch.What a shot that was. Rakell looked slick out there knowing exactly what he was going to do before taking the shot. Guentzel looked pretty lifeless on his shot. Malkin knew exactly what he was going to do as well.