The Pittsburgh Penguins escapde a late surge by Tampa Bay and went on to beat the Lightning 4-3, recording their 30th point and improving their overall record to 15-8-0.
The stars were definitely out Monday night in Pittsburgh, but Pens forward Evgeni Malkin shined the brightest.
Scoring a sensational goal in the third period to even up the score 2-2, Malkin would later assist on the game-winning goal to James Neal, who potted an empty-netter with 52 seconds left.
This all came shortly after the fact Malkin had apparently passed ImPACT testing and was then sequentially penciled into Monday’s starting lineup. Not a bad return for Malkin at all.
Sidney Crosby was well, Sidney Crosby again.
Executing another successful performance, Crosby registered a goal and a helper against the Bolts, giving him 36 points (11G, 25A) on the season.
He still however remains just two points ahead of Lightning forward Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead in points, after Stamkos potted two goals himself Monday.
Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for Pittsburgh and he turned aside 25 of 28 shots, improving his record to 11-5-0. On the year, Fleury now has a 2.44 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.
Do the Pens have the look of a Norris Trophy finalist with Kris Letang?
Finding himself on the stat sheet once again, Letang assisted on Crosby’s tie-breaking goal and Neal’s game-winning one. Letang now has 21 points (3G, 18A) on the season, which leads all NHL defenseman in that category.
Reigning Norris winner Erik Karlsson is out for the year, and with the Pens scoring at a high rate each night, Letang has all the potential in the world to win the award.
Other notes to pass around – forward Chris Kunitz is a good hockey player.
Scoring his 12th goal of the year, he now has 28 points (12G, 16A) and sits behind only Crosby and Stamkos for the league lead in that category.
Kunitz is now officially on fire.
With the goal against the Lightning Monday night, Kunitz now has scored in four consecutive games while registering at least one point in six straight.
It was a great night for certain individual players, but it undoubtedly was a team win for the Pens.
Defenseman Paul Martin was absent again for the Pens and that meant Mark Eaton got another start. No word on when Martin will return, but he skated with strength and conditioning coaches earlier this week, so hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.
They’ll definitely need him for the next game, as the Pens will now go to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers.
Pens play the Flyers Thursday at 7 p.m.