I have a single, entirely rhetorical question about the Malkin-to-Kessel goal above: How the hell do you stop that?
You don’t, obviously. Ryan Miller didn’t. Christopher Tanev may as well have been a cone. Luca Sbisa might still be sliding now. That sort of preternatural patience from Evgeni Malkin, to look off a pair of defenders and set up Phil Kessel for a wide open net, is a good sign that he hasn’t missed at step in his seven-game absence with a lower-body injury.
“I feel OK,” Malkin said. “First game is always hard. First period, I die a little bit. After, I feel so much better.”
Malkin scored the game’s first goal in Pittsburgh’s 4-0 dismantling of Vancouver, but I keep coming back to that set-up for Kessel. They say the game slows down for the great athletes, so Malkin must’ve felt like he was in “The Jaunt” here. Longer than you think, Phil!
“The first time we went 2-on-1, I tried to pass to him and he tried to pass it back and it didn’t work,” Malkin said. “Now I passed to him and he shoot. It’s more fun.”
It was a feel-good win all around for the Penguins. Matt Murray, who has emerged as the clear No. 1 goalie, recorded his third shutout of the season. Sidney Crosby notched his 999th career point. Pittsburgh is on a 5-0-2 run and is now alone in second in the crowded Metro, two points up on Columbus and New York (though the Rangers have played one more game than either). This season has always felt kind of like a prelude to a Pens-Caps playoff showdown for the East, and for as unthinkably hot as the Capitals have been, the defending champs are the defending champs for a reason.