The Pittsburgh Penguins (21-9-5) had their top four centers in the lineup for the first time this season, but through the magic of COVID protocols, only three played center. Evgeni Malkin buried two goals in his first game of the season, Jeff Carter scored two, too, and the Penguins earned their 11th win in 12 games, 4-1 over the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.
The Penguins blitzed the Anaheim Ducks in the first period. Just 65 seconds into the game, Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Carter worked the offensive zone for a couple of scoring chances. Carter had to play LW, and he converted on the Penguins second shift.
After the line buzzed around the offensive zone in Malkin’s first shift this season, defenseman Marcus Pettersson pinched to keep the play alive and poked the puck towards Carter in the left-wing circle. Carter (10) unleashed a turning wrister past Anaheim goalie Anthony Stolarz to the far post.
“Now I feel awesome. I mean, it was a long process for me — the longest break in my life. I’m glad I’m with the team,” Malkin said. “I was a little bit nervous before the game. It was not a perfect game, but like, it’s good. We win and I score a couple of goals. It’s amazing. Like, I feel so much easier right now.”
The Penguins outchanced Anaheim 15-4, but Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry had to make four slick saves, including a lunging blocker save on Trevor Zegras.
Jarry was exceptional. He didn’t have to make a lot of saves, but he made several that made Anaheim players shake their heads. In the third period, Anaheim defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk exhaled and looked to the rafters after Jarry read his one-timer and was waiting to make the save on what looked like a sure goal.
Malkin will get the headlines, Jarry was better.
Jarry stopped 17 of 18 in the first two periods and 23 of 24 shots. The Penguins outshot Anaheim 34-24, and outchanced them 24-12, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Early in the second period, Malkin scored a power-play goal. With Sidney Crosby creating a stir in front of the net, Malkin (1) let it rip from the point, and Crosby lept into the air with knees bent to avoid the rising shot that Stolarz didn’t see.
“I just think (Malkin) brings so much. He makes us so much harder to play against. I think it makes matchups difficult for our opponents. You know, he’s such a threat offensively. He commands the puck every time he’s on the ice. For the most part is I thought his line was really good all night long,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “And when you have Sid’s line and then you have Geno’s line, I just think it’s a lot. It’s a lot to handle from an opponent standpoint…”
Later in the second period, Malkin scored his second goal and the game. Malkin (2) perfectly timed his arrival to the front of the net and neatly deflected John Marino’s point shot. The puck fluttered over Stolarz’s pad, seemingly in slow motion as the big Russian raised his arms in celebration.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t run Anaheim out of the building. Midway through the second period, Anaheim closed the lead to 2-1, when winger Jacob Silfverberg (2) cradled a loose puck just outside the crease and snapped it past a fallen Jarry.
Stolarz was in net for John Gibson, who is in COVID protocol. Stolarz had to stop than a handful of uncontested chances, including a Kasperi Kapanen breakaway, a Dominik Simon rebound attempt and Jake Guentzel slipped behind the Anaheim defense in the third period, too.
Carter (11) buried an empty netter, assisted by Malkin with three minutes remaining.
“That was part of the thought process when putting (Carter) on Geno’s line. You know, he’s a real good defensive player. He’s good on faceoffs. He’s a right-handed shot, so, he can take (faceoffs) on his backhand on the right side,” Sullivan said. “We weren’t sure if (Malkin) was going to be comfortable in the faceoffs. It’s been a long time since he’s taken a faceoff in a hockey game, so we wanted to make sure that we surrounded Geno with the right people that that could help him have success.”
Malkin and Simon led all players with four shots. Malkin played just under 18 minutes. And, with his assist in the second period, Jake Guentzel’s personal scoring streak extended to 18 games (5-12-27).