It was in the post-hat-trick celebration, as headgear was raining down from the Mellon Arena stands, that the Versus cameras caught Natalia and Vladimir Malkin celebrating their son Evgeni's feat -- with dad giving mom a joyful kiss on the cheek, keeping one eye on the Jumbotron.
They've been in Pittsburgh for some time now following their superstar son, but it hasn't taken long for the Malkins to become rock stars themselves. The television cameras pan to them whenever Evgeni Malkin(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a goal. Vladimir's overjoyed reaction after hearing that his son had been credited with the overtime winner in Game 5 against the Washington Capitals was priceless.
The Malkins have become a lucky rabbit's foot for their son. Whenever they are in attendance, it seems that Evgeni is prominent on the score sheet.
Proving this is difficult: While the National Hockey League keeps stats on everything from plus-minus on the road against a division foe to home faceoffs lost, you can't readily find numbers for when a player's parents are in attendance.
So while we'd love to name Mom and Pop Malkin the official mascots of the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup playoff run -- with apologies to Iceburgh -- we can't, in good faith, until we have tangible proof of their effect on wins and losses.
Or until someone makes the first T-shirt in their honor. Or nesting dolls.
Vladimir and Natalia were the unofficial second stars of Game 2 between Pittsburgh and Carolina, right behind their son who tallied his first career playoff hat-trick in a 7-4 victory. The Penguins now lead the series 2-0 with a vital Game 3 taking place Saturday night in Raleigh.
In this age of an abundance of young talent around the NHL, as Nike's campaign for LeBron James says: "We are all witnesses."
It's truly amazing to watch players like Malkin, Sidney Crosby(notes), Pavel Datsyuk(notes) and Alexander Ovechkin(notes) among the handful of others take control of a game and led the play dictate through them. Malkin's first goal saw him burst through two Carolina defenders to stuff home a rebound. His second tally saw him out-muscle Hurricane defenseman Tim Gleason(notes) broke the deadlock for good. For his final trick, Malkin score a contender for goal of the playoffs with a wicked backhander and made it rain inside The Igloo.
Here's the hat trick for Malkin in Game 2:
As much as the Penguins tried to pull away, the Hurricanes would not allow it, but when Malkin completed the trick with just under seven and a half remaining, the wind was knocked out of Carolina's sails.
Carolina heads back home, down 2-0 in the series, facing a must win game. If Coach Paul Maurice can't devise a way to slow down Malkin and the aggressive Pittsburgh fore-check, the large home ice advantage that the RBC Center usually brings may not even matter.
As for Mom and Pop Malkin, they remain an omnipresent part of the Penguins' postseason story. Although Evgeni should probably keep his father away from his video diary: