CHICAGO — Evgeni Malkin played in his 1000th game, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 at the United Center on Sunday. The win and two points belonged to the Penguins, though on most nights, the score would have been reversed. The Penguins didn’t outplay Chicago but converted on a few chances in the right moments.
Sidney Crosby had four points and rescued the Penguins’ win for his longtime friend with a late goal.
As coach Mike Sullivan pointed out, this is one of the rare games where the details probably don’t matter as much as the result and the monument of Malkin reaching 1000 games played. It’s been a long road for Malkin, who had to escape Russia in 2006 with a secret plan hatched by his agents to get away from his Russian team. There have been scoring titles, MVPs, and Stanley Cups.
But something about 1000 games brings it all home.
“We all know what Geno means to the city of Pittsburgh and the story and the legacy that he’s built. I know it was a special night for him and his family to celebrate with him, which was terrific,” said Sullivan. “And I think it just it just makes the experience that much more memorable. The fact that we could come out in the win column — maybe 20 years from now, they’re not going to be as concerned about how we won. It’s more about the fact that we won.”
Sullivan probably swung our PHN Penguins takeaways with that line.
Kris Letang has known Evgeni Malkin for 17 years. The pair were rookies together back in 2006-07. They’ve grown up together. They used to get chased off the ice by coach Michel Therrien, along with Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury.
They’ve been through it all. Malkin’s son Nikita, who is six, read the starting lineup before the game.
Is it getting dusty in the Penguins locker room? 😭 pic.twitter.com/m2WAfLyrCB
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 21, 2022
“You saw it, you know, the smile he had in a warm-up. His emotion when his son came into the room, it was special,” Letang said. “It was funny. Sometimes, Geno doesn’t show emotion that much. You know, he’s a pretty strong guy, usually. And to see him like that, it’s special. He just … Yeah, it’s fun to see.”
Here’s the raw video of Kris Letang.
Penguins winger Rickard Rakell pointed the finger at Crosby as the one who spread the word about copying Malkin’s pre-game stretching routine on the ice. The team simultaneously laid on the ice to stretch their legs as Malkin does before every game.
Rakell liked the move. He joked that he might add it to his routine.
“Everyone’s kind of got their own feel, their own kind of quirks. And with my thousandth game, we did the tying the skates, and Geno has the original moves that he does out there,” Crosby said. “So I think we just tried to have some fun with that, and we talked about a lot of different stuff. That one seemed to make sense, and it’s just really cool to be a part of.”
Crosby did acknowledge the emotional moment for his friend.
“(1000 games) that’s huge. It was a great kind of lead-up to the game with the warm-up and Nikita being here,’ Crosby said. “And yeah, I’m sure it was a lot of thoughts going through his mind, but we capped it off with the win, and that makes it extra special. And it was pretty, pretty emotional. It goes by fast, and I’m just happy that we got the win.”
Mike Sullivan put it into a larger context that might make many of us feel old. Those 17 years they’ve been together have flown by, and now the trio is breaking records, reaching milestones, and etching their name in hockey history.
“Those guys have such a great relationship, and they built such a legacy together. It just seems like all these milestones, they’re all reaching them together,” said Sullivan. “Who’s up next? I’m not sure, but it just seems like, at this stage in their careers, they’re approaching so many milestones that every time we turn around, one of them’s accomplishing something else.
“It just speaks volumes for the players they are. And what they’ve accomplished in Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh Penguins. They have an impressive legacy. And, I think they’re the greatest corps that I’ve ever been around, that’s for sure.”
Evgeni Malkin in the Penguins locker room: