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Malkin, Pens handle Rangers in Letang’s return

Jan 19, 2012, 9:57 PM EDT

Kris Letang, Steve Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin AP

The Pittsburgh Penguins still have a long way to go – eight points to be exact – to match the New York Rangers, but they took a step in the right direction by beating them 4-1 tonight.

To little surprise, Evgeni Malkin continues his scorching-hot run as he scored the game’s last two goals while James Neal collected two assists to extend the Penguins’ winning streak to four games. Malkin’s 54 points leads the NHL at the moment.

The bigger surprises came in an underwhelming overall performance by the Rangers and the far-from-conservative return for Kris Letang.

Surely John Tortorella will yell at his team plenty for a rare night of mediocre efforts, so let’s instead focus on Letang’s return. The Penguins blueliner threw his body all over the ice – perhaps most emphatically when he blocked a Dan Girardi shot. Letang collected an assist and was on the ice for a team-leading 24:17 minutes.

It’s pretty tough to say that he showed many signs that he’d been out for some time, but tomorrow’s game against the Montreal Canadiens should be a good test.

Despite a promising run, the Penguins are stuck in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, which is shaping up to be the Eastern Conference’s best answer to the cutthroat Central. Still, they have one bigger-picture reason to smile: they’re back in the East’s top eight in seventh place as of this writing.

Check out highlights below.

  1. Stiller43 - Jan 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    Now 6th place (and 3rd in the atlantic). Go pens! If we ever have a healthy croz and staal to go with the rest of this lineup, we can definitely make some noise, but thats a big if…

  2. Kristenaux - Jan 19, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    Well Malkin got the Pens to the playoffs before without a “Croz” so what’s stopping him from doing just as well this time? I think we need to appreciate more what we already have and stop wishing for something we don’t. Just my 2 cents but gawd I get sick of all the attention going to Crosby even when everybody else is doing so well?

  3. Stiller43 - Jan 19, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Kristeneux,

    Not sure if your comment was a reply to mine, but either way…i dont think too many people doubt that malkin can get this team to the playoffs, but his one line has had like 50% of the teams last 60 some goals, and you wont win too many rounds of the playoffs with only one line scoring on a regular basis.

  4. pensswag91 - Jan 20, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Although it is true that Malkin is having one of his best seasons yet, there is more to a team than 1 superstar. I do not recall the Pens winning the Cup on Malkin’s back alone(although he did have a great post-season.) Crosby and Staal are crucial parts to this team, and I don’t see the Pens making any type of Cup push without either of them.

    • abrienza428 - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      Exactly. It would be the same if Crosby was in and Malkin and Staal were out. It’s hard to imagine them making a run with only one of these three. With two of them around, it’s possible, and with all three they’ve obviously very dangerous.

  5. jpelle82 - Jan 20, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    how short the memory can be…pens are very streaky right now…a week ago they were on a 6 game losing streak. we need more consistent play going into feb, march and staal needs to come back. i think this team is capable of making a run without crosby but not both him and staal. malkin is benefitting from chemistry with neal and kunitz…staal will make sullivan, dupuis, or kennedy better, and the pens need more secondary scoring. malkin has like 6 of the pens last 8 goals…you cant rely on that kind of play for the rest of the season.

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