Penguins admit Malkin is concussed
THE SPORTS XCHANGE
|Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins is tended to by medical staff in the third period against the Florida Panthers during the game at Consol Energy Center on February 22, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins won 3-1. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/AFP)
PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin for the first time this season, due to a concussion, so they turned to their other superstar. It’s a formula they may have to follow for a while longer.
Sidney Crosby scored two early goals as the Penguins took a three-goal lead then held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Sunday night at Consol Energy Center.
Malkin suffered a head injury Friday night late in a victory over the Florida Panthers and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after the game that the center had been diagnosed with a concussion and had also experienced short-term memory loss.
Malkin will remain in Pittsburgh when the Penguins embark on a three-game road trip that begins Tuesday night at Florida. He won the Hart Trophy last season as the NHL’s most valuable player and also led the league in scoring.
“It’s going to be an adjustment,” Crosby said of playing without Malkin. “It’s something we’re going to need to get used to, though hopefully we won’t have to get used to it for too long.”
Pittsburgh (13-6-0) won for the fifth time in its last six games to take over the Atlantic Division lead and is 10-3 since a 3-3 start. Tampa Bay (9-8-1) fell short in its bid to put together a three-game road winning streak for the first time since 2011.
Crosby also had an assist as he moved his point total to 28. Tampa Bay’s Stephen Stamkos retained the league scoring lead with 29 points as he had a goal and two assists.
Staying ahead of Crosby was of little consolation for Stamkos, whose team twice got within a goal but could never overcome the Penguins’ 3-0 lead after one period.
“Did we compete and play hard? Yeah we competed and played hard but we always do that,” Stamkos said. “We can’t get behind by that many goals against a team like Pittsburgh on the road. You can say it’s a moral victory that made it close but we don’t need moral victories.”
Paul Martin, rookie Beau Bennett and Matt Cooke also scored for the Penguins. Eric Brewer and Cory Conacher added goals for the Lightning.
Marc-Andre Fleury won his fifth straight start for the Penguins, making 27 saves, and tied Montreal’s Carey Price for the league lead with his 10th win.
“I let in a couple of goals I probably shouldn’t have but the guys played great in front of me,” Fleury said. “To not have Geno (Malkin) and still be able to win is always a plus. Geno is a superstar and it’s tough to win without him.”
Bylsma opted to move Crosby to Malkin’s line with wingers James Neal and Chris Kunitz.
The strategy paid off just 1:16 into the game when Crosby scored the game’s first goal by lifting a quick wrist shot from inside the right dot over the glove hand of goaltender Anders Lindback.
Crosby had a bit of good fortunate when he scored again at 7:15 to make it 2-0. He was credited with the goal when Lindback kicked the puck into the net with the back of his right skate during a scramble in front of the net.
The Penguins made it a three-goal game with 34 seconds left in the first period as Martin scored his third goal on a wrist shot from the slot on a pretty pass from Cooke.
Lindback was pulled in favor of Mathieu Garon after allowing the three goals on 10 shots in the first period.
The Lightning closed to 3-2 with a pair of goals early in the second period. Brewer tipped in a Stamkos shot at 1:37 for his fourth goal then Stamkos scored on a five-on-three power play, blasting a slap shot from the left point at 3:14.
However, Pittsburgh restored its two-goal advantage at 12:20 when Bennett scored his first NHL goal. With the Penguins having a two-man advantage, Bennett reached the back of the net on a wrist shot from the left circle that made it 4-2.
“I’ll give the puck to my mom and she’ll put it in a nice safe place,” Bennett said with a smile. “It’s something I’ll have for a long, long time.”
Tampa Bay sliced the lead to a goal again at 3:15 of the third period when Conacher scored his seventh goal on a wrister.
The Lightning pulled the goalie in the final moments in an attempt to tie the game but Cooke scored an empty-netter with 52 seconds left, his third, to seal the victory.
NOTES: Crosby, the Penguins captain, said the hit by the Panthers’ Eric Gudbranson that caused Malkin to crash into the boards and be injured on Friday night was clean and there would be no retaliation when the teams meet again on Tuesday night at Florida. ... Tampa Bay defenseman Keith Aulie returned to action after missing the previous two games with a stomach virus that caused him to lose 10 pounds. ... Brewer was credited with six hits for the Lightning. ... Pittsburgh center Joe Vitale threw Tampa Bay right wing Adam Hall to the ice during a fight with 29 seconds left in the first period. It drew five-minute major penalties for both combatants. ... Left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie and defensemen Brian Lee and Brendan Mikkelson were healthy scratches for the Lightning. ... In addition to Malkin, left wing Zach Boychuk and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo were scratched by Pittsburgh, though both were healthy.