Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was hurt during pre game warm up prior to Thursday night’s contest against the San Jose Sharks. As it turned out, the Penguins didn’t need the NHL second-leading points earner. Sidney Crosby, the only player Malkin trails in points, stepped up in his absence.
But you already knew Crosby would, didn’t you. He’s the best player in the NHL, of course he elevates his game without Malkin in the lineup. The player who who really won this game for Pittsburgh is goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
San Jose didn’t play a poor game offensively at all. The Sharks out-shot the Penguins 45-30 in the game, but Fleury sent away 44 of the them. He was especially impressive in the second period when the Penguins started raining in goals on Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi, who was eventually removed later in the game. They scored four unanswered in a matter of just seven minutes. Crosby assisted on three of those Pittsburgh scores.
Fleury’s only goal allowed in the game came in the second period to Sharks’ center Tomas Hertl, but he saved a total of 23 shots in the period alone. He did not allow a goal in the third period and won the game 5-1 for Pittsburgh.
Fleury sent away countless attacks by San Jose. He also held them to 0 for 3 on the power play. The Sharks have scored the second-most goals in the NHL. San Jose forwards were not lazy on offense, they crashed the net with frequency. Fleury was just that magnificent.
Pittsburgh becomes the second team to win 20 games this season and now has the third-most points in the NHL standings, one behind San Jose. Even without Malkin, the Penguins found a way to pull out a dominant victory. They have Fleury to thank for that.