There was a weird dichotomy in the Penguins’ 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks tonight.
The victory was, at the same time, a testament to the team’s newfound depth and its long-held star power.
The first goal of the game was scored by Ian Cole, breaking a 104-game drought. The third was scored by Eric Fehr. They came on the heels of big goals by Ben Lovejoy, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary, among others, in recent games.
Pick your poison, coach Mike Sullivan said the other day, and he’s right. It’s hard to defend a team that attacks in waves.
It’s even harder to defend a team that attacks in waves and gets big performances from its star players, and that’s what Evgeni Malkin provided tonight with a goal and an assist.
Malkin’s night was most remarkable because he, his teammates and his coach talked for two straight days about the scoring slump he was in. And then he promptly went out and snapped it.
“We’ve seen him do it so many times,” center Matt Cullen said. “He’s such a big part of the team and he demands a lot of himself. To see him come out like that in a big game, when he has publicly called himself out a bit, it’s pretty impressive. That’s what the great players do and he was no exception tonight. He did a heck of a job.”
Some other postgame quotes:
— Sullivan on Malkin: “I thought he was really good, not just because he got on the scoresheet. Obviously that’s great for him and great for us, but I thought his overall game was really good. He played at both ends of the rink and when he plays that way, he’s so hard to defend. It seems like the puck follows him around.”
— Malkin on the power play: “It’s simple. If you want to win, we have to use our power play. We didn’t score for three straight games, but it worked tonight. It’s easy when you score. It feels much better. Just move the puck and it feels great.”
— Letang on Malkin recording his first points of the Final: “It’s huge. It’s huge for the confidence. People always look at Geno like a guy that’s going to rack up points and be really good offensively, but playoff hockey, it’s tough to score. When you get a big goal like that, it’s good for your confidence.”
— Cullen on Matt Murray, who had an outstanding, 23-save bounce-back performance: “Matty was up to the challenge. It was good to see him come up with the effort he did tonight.”
— Sullivan on Phil Kessel, who had two assists: “I love Phil’s overall game. Not just tonight, I’ve liked it through this whole playoffs. Phil’s game right now, when you watch him play, for me, when I watch him play, I say to myself, ‘He’s committed, he’s committed to helping us win. He’s playing at both ends of the rink. He’s such a scoring threat offensively.’
— Sullivan on why the Penguins haven’t trailed, even once, in this series: “I don’t know. I give our players a lot of credit. I think we’ve had pretty good starts. I think everybody’s been focused right from the drop of the puck, trying to gain momentum right away. Anytime you can score the first goal in a game, it really increases your chances. I think our guys are just focused on trying to play the game the right way. When the opportunities present themselves, we’re trying to take advantage of them.”
Bye for now,