Evgeni Malkin, Penguins Looking Special
Wednesday, October 25th 2006, 9:05 am
News On 6
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Evgeni Malkin has needed only four games to show the NHL he might be a very special player. He proved it to star goaltender Martin Brodeur with one shot.
Malkin, moved up to Pittsburgh's top line with Sidney Crosby for the first time, secured the young Penguins' 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night with exactly the kind of did-you-see-that-goal that made him a No. 2 draft pick in 2004.
Taking a cross-ice pass from Crosby, Malkin split two defenders and did a spin move near the net to beat Brodeur on a backhander to restore Pittsburgh's two-goal lead midway through the third period. Malkin, the Russian Olympic star who sneaked away from his pro team there to play in the NHL this season, has a goal in each of his first four NHL games. He is the first player to do so since Steven King of the Rangers in 1992.
``I came right from the bench and I had a lot of energy,'' the 20-year-old Malkin said, speaking through interpreter George Birman. ``A lot of guys on their team were wanting to change. He made a nice pass, saw me there and it was just me and the defender.''
In the only other NHL games Tuesday, it was: Ottawa 6, Toronto 2; and Calgary 6, Phoenix 1.
Brodeur's take on Malkin's goal?
``Pretty amazing,'' the Devils' longtime star said. ``It was a great pass, but there's not too many guys who can control that and after that, have the presence to outmuscle a guy and shift when a guy is trying to take your head off. I thought I had it the whole way, he had nowhere to go, and he just stopped and went right around me with his reach.''
Right now, a player must do something remarkable merely to get noticed on the Penguins. The NHL's worst franchise the last four seasons is flashing signs it could be much better _ and soon.
Jordan Staal, the No. 2 pick in the June draft who turned 18 only last month, has three goals in two games and four in eight games. One game after being the youngest player in NHL history to score twice short-handed, he got his first career goal at even strength on a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Nils Ekman, who also scored, and Mark Recchi.
Oh, yeah, and those guys named Crosby and Fleury? Not to get overlooked, Crosby had a goal and an assist, giving him 34 points in his last 18 games dating to the end of last season. And former No. 1 pick Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 21, lowered his goals-against average to 2.50 by making 22 saves.
``There's a lot of talent here,'' the 19-year-old Crosby said. ``Everybody realizes the great opportunity we have here, and that to be successful we have to be a team. Nobody cares who gets credit when we win. Everybody has that attitude here.''
The Penguins' 5-3 start might seem modest, but it's a big improvement from their nine-game losing streak to start last season when they were a much older team. Now, only San Jose had a younger roster to start the season.
Already, NHL general managers and coaches are scrambling to think of when one team added so many potential young impact players in so little time.
``No, I don't think the talent here surprises you at all,'' Devils coach Claude Julien said. ``How many first-round picks, how many first overall picks do they have here? When you finish last you get those picks and they've been fortunate to have guys like Crosby, Malkin. When you're picking early, you're going to pick the best every year.''
Senators 6, Maple Leafs 2
At Toronto, Mike Fisher, Andrej Meszaros, Patrick Eaves, Antoine Vermette, Dany Heatley and Chris Neil scored to lead Ottawa.
The Senators have scored 14 goals in the last two games after scoring just 11 in their first six games. Ottawa led the league with 314 goals last season.
Matt Stajan and Mats Sundin scored for the Maple Leafs, who were booed in the third period and as the final horn sounded. Toronto goalie Andrew Raycroft was replaced to start the third after he allowed five goals on 21 shots.
Flames 6, Coyotes 1
Roman Hamrlik led the way with a goal and an assist, and host Calgary scored three times on the power play and once short-handed in the win.
Chuck Kobasew, Kristian Huselius, Tony Amonte, Jarome Iginla and Marcus Nilson also scored for the Flames, who halted a three-game losing streak. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 26 shots to improve to 3-4-1.
Owen Nolan scored for the Coyotes (2-8-0), who have now lost four straight and are in last place in the Western Conference.
The Flames finished 3-for-10 on the man advantage, while the Coyotes failed to score on nine power-play opportunities.