Evgeni Malkin rockets into Rocket Richard race

Scott Billeck
NBC Sports

Step aside SpaceX, Evgeni Malkin has blasted off.

For while there, it appeared that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Nikita Kucherov would battle it out for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

The two Russians traded places with each other on top of the goal-scoring summit, a two-horse race for bragging rights back home and around the NHL.

That in its own right would have been a fantastic duel to watch down the stretch here.

But Kucherov hasn’t scored in his past 11 games, and that’s opened the door for a couple others to join the race.

Vegas Golden Knights forward William Karlsson, for instance, inserted himself into the conversation among the best snipers in the NHL with 28 goals on the season. And if it wasn’t for another familiar sniper over the past 10 days, this article might be centering around the young Swede and his pursuit of Ovi.

Instead, over the past five games, Malkin — the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar who has flirted with Richard’s honor in the past — has skyrocketed into second place, two goals back of compatriot Ovechkin.

Malkin’s last five games have been nothing short of spectacular. Here’s a quick look:

Yes, Malkin has nine goals during a five-game goal-scoring streak.

Nine.

Neuf.

ДЕВЯТЬ (Russian for nine)

He also has 16 tallies in his past 13 games. It’s a bit crazy.

Malkin is shooting at 43 percent during those five games and now sits at 18.4 percent on the season.

Unsurprisingly, Malkin’s torrid pace has equated to success for the Penguins, who have won four of their past five games and now sit in second in the Metropolitan Division. In a division that no one seems to want to put their stamp on, Malkin is doing his best to help the Penguins change that.

Malkin won’t continue shooting above 40 percent. But consider that he’s scoring a goal every 5.4 shots and that he’s averaging over three shots per game.

Math is hard, but this appears to mean a lot more goals could come off the stick of No. 71 before the season is over.

Grab some popcorn.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

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