Pittsburgh Penguins pick up third straight win behind Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick

Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images /

The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-2 in Pittsburgh last night. Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick for the home team, while goalie Matt Murray returned to action following the death of his father.

The Pittsburgh Penguins emerged from the All-Star break in a tenuous position. Entering Tuesday, they had 57 points in 51 games, clinging to the third seed in the Metropolitan Division playoff race. With every other current Eastern Conference playoff team carrying at least a game in hand, the reigning Stanley Cup champions need all the points they can get.

Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick was his first of the season, and the 12th of his decorated career. The Penguins center finishes the month with nine goals and 16 points.

His first two came at even strength and resulted from a strong forecheck and miscues by the Sharks. Malkin’s final goal came with the Penguins leading 4-2 and just over a minute left in the third period.

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The other two Penguins goals came from Bryan Rust. The young winger opened the scoring midway through the first period after laying some smooth dekes on Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.

Jones was made to look even worse on Rust’s second goal, as Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl grabbed his own rebound to throw a no-look pass between his legs as Rust came through the slot to bury it.

Tale of two goaltenders

Jones lined up across the ice from another embattled young starter, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray.

While Jones entered the year as San Jose’s entrenched starter, he’s struggled with injuries. A Vezina-level performance early on has given way to radical inconsistencies: Jones has not strung three or more wins together since October. At least back-up Aaron Dell provides some comedic relief along with stability in net.

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While Murray has struggled with injuries before, he missed time recently to deal with the passing of his father. Despite questions about his ability to carry the load for a full season, Murray turned in a 40-save performance tonight. While he allowed two power-play goals in the second, he enters the stretch run warding off talented back-ups Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry.