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Malkin nabs hat trick in Pens 5-2 win over San Jose

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Evgeni Malkin recorded his 12th career hat trick as the Penguins raced to their eighth win in 10 games in a 5-2 beating of San Jose at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night.

Malkin made the best of a few head-scratching mistakes made by San Jose.

With 14 minutes left in the game—the score tied at two—goalie Martin Jones made a critical error, passing the puck from behind the net right to the stick of a waiting Patric Hornqvist, who then kicked it to the angled Malkin for the wide-open, game-winning goal.

The goal followed Malkin’s first finish of the night, which came with just four seconds left in the second period, when Brent Burns made a lazy pass behind his own net, which was picked up by Phil Kessel, who centered Malkin for the glove-side dagger, answering a Logan Couture goal for the Sharks just 1:20 prior.

“[The] last couple weeks, I feel like I’m so lucky,” said Malkin, who scored goals 23, 24 and 25, placing him tied for third in the league in that department.

“I’m glad,” the center continued.  “I really like [that] my shot is coming, and I’m using my shots right now.”

Pittsburgh (28-21-3,) used luck, the sharp-shooting of Malkin and the precision of its fourth line, where Bryan Rust (5,6) chipped in with two goals on the night, just missing a hat trick by a goal post.

Rust, who hadn't found the back of the net since Nov. 27, scored the opening goal midway through the first period, when Ian Cole forced a turnover at the blue line, pushing the puck to Rust, who went give-and-go with Riley Sheahan, closing for the finish past the leg of Jones.  Rust’s second net-slapper provided the insurance for the Penguins, when the wing finished on the backdoor of the Sharks' goalie after receiving a nifty between-the-legs pass from Tom Kuhnhackl late in the third period.

“I think Rusty is just a real good two-way player,” said Sullivan.  “We can utilize him in so many situations.  I’ve used him all over the lineup since we’ve been here.  He can the right side, he can the left side, we can play him up the lineup.  He kills penalties, and we can use him on the power play.  He brings a ton of speed to our team.  His puck pursuit game is really good.  He’s got good defensive awareness.  He’s good along the wall, and I’m hoping tonight, scoring two goals should certainly be a good boost of confidence for him moving forward.”

Despite being outshot 42-31, including a 23-10 difference in the second period, the Penguins made life difficult for the goalie Jones, who surrendered four of the goals, with Malkin’s final strike coming on an empty net.

In an emotional return to the ice for Matt Murray, who made his first start since the death of his father, James, the goalie pieced together a solid campaign, stuffing 40 San Jose shots, with both goals given up coming on San Jose power play’s.

“I thought he was terrific, especially in that second period, where we certainly got outplayed during that time of the game,” said Mike Sullivan of his goaltender.  “I thought Matt was our best penalty killer tonight, even though we gave up a couple.”

“It was obviously an emotional game for him,” continued coach.  “Matt’s a mature kid.  He’s grounded.  He has good perspective on where he’s at and the opportunity in front of him.  I think because of that, he handles adverse situations extremely well, whether it be ups and downs in a season, or whether it be ups and downs within a game, or in this particular life instance, when he loses his dad.”

“It was a great feeling, obviously, you know, getting back to normal and getting in a good game like that and getting a win for the team,” said Murray, who started in goal for the first time since Jan. 4.

Kris Letang provided a lift for Murray in the second period, when with just under five minutes left, the defenseman dove and knocked the puck away from Couture, who was strides away from the netminder on a short-handed breakaway.

“That’s a regular thing on this team,” explained Murray of his team’s support in front of him.  “It’s fun to watch and fun to be apart of.  I think each and every one of us feels lucky to be apart of this team and to play with some of these players that are in here.”

Sidney Crosby, who corralled his 39th assist of the season, extended his point streak to 10 games, while Kessel added his 38th assist on the year, adding to a 15-point run in his last 10 games.

After the moneyline

The Penguins came in as -170 favorites, while also winning as -1.5 puck line favorites for the third consecutive game. 

The total, which was set at 5.5 goals, went over for the second consecutive game.

Up next

The Pens will complete the last leg of their four-game homestand when they host Washington Friday night.  Puck drops at 7 PM.

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