Picking up right where he left off prior to All-Star weekend, Evgeni Malkin continued his MVP-caliber campaign with a clutch performance out of the break.
Another matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs doesn’t seem likely to slow him down.
Looking to extend their season-best winning streak to nine games, Malkin and the visiting Penguins conclude a home-and-home set with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
Leading the league with 59 points, Malkin has been sensational during Pittsburgh’s (29-17-4) eight-game run. The Penguins have outscored opponents 29-19 during their winning stretch thanks in large part to Malkin’s four assists and 10 goals - the most recent of which helped keep their streak intact.
After falling behind 4-1 with roughly 13 minutes remaining, Pittsburgh roared back behind a thrilling third-period rally, capped by Malkin taking a shot off his chest to tie the game with six seconds to go in regulation.
“Things are going well for us right now,” forward Craig Adams said. “We’re getting a lot of good bounces, and we’re feeling good about ourselves in terms of never being out of a game. But I don’t think we want to play too many games like that.”
After tying the game, Malkin scored the shootout’s lone goal to give the Penguins a 5-4 win. He’s posted 38 points in 18 career meetings with Toronto (25-19-6) - including seven goals and 15 assists over an 11-game scoring streak in the series.
While the Maple Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of second-period goals from Mikhail Grabovski, they seemed to be overwhelmed by Pittsburgh’s late surge.
“We took the game to them for the first 55 (minutes) and we sat back, tightened up a little bit and they took over the game and they just kept coming and they broke us,” said captain Dion Phaneuf, who had gone a season-worst eight games without a point before notching an assist Tuesday.
Grabovski has 10 goals and 10 assists over his last 16 games. He’s tallied five and five, respectively, over a six-game point streak versus Pittsburgh.
Appearing in his career-high 23rd straight game, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves Tuesday. He’s gone 4-2-1 in seven career starts at Toronto despite a 3.64 goals-against average. Fleury, though, is 5-2-0 with a 1.56 GAA over his last seven road contests overall.
Toronto’s Jonas Gustavsson, meanwhile, turned away 31 shots versus the Penguins, surrendering more than three goals for the first time in 12 games.
After Tuesday’s disappointing finish, Gustavsson is surely looking forward to getting back home - where he’s been especially good of late. Gustavsson is 6-2-0 with a 1.63 GAA and three shutouts over his last eight games at Air Canada Centre.
The Swedish native is 2-2-1 with a 3.75 GAA lifetime against the Penguins. He made 34 saves in a 4-3 home victory Oct. 29.
The Penguins are 3-1-1 in their last five visits to Toronto.