Is this Evgeni Malkin’s best work yet?

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Evgeni Malkin is one of the league’s most irresistible forces right now – even back-to-back games can’t slow him down for good.

After scoring the last two goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big win against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Geno erupted in the third period to help his team overcome a 4-2 deficit against the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin scored the game-tying goal on a laser beam of a shot and then collected the shootout winner as Pittsburgh topped the Habs 5-4 (SO).

Tonight’s goal ups Malkin’s league-leading points total to 55, which is especially impressive because he’s played in just 40 games. (Current runner-up Henrik Sedin has 52 points in 47 contests.) You can break up Geno’s recent work into scary-good chunks, but I’d say going back to Nov. 20 is a solid idea:

Malkin in the last 27 games: 20 goals, 21 assists for 41 points with a +10 rating and 132 shots on goal. Most recently, Malkin has eight goals and 10 points in his last six contests.

That’s some ridiculous stuff, prompting onlookers to boast about his swagger and forcing me to wonder: where does this rank with the gifted center’s all-time best work?

source: API asked folks on Twitter how “2011-12 Malkin compares to Art Ross Malkin” and those who responded ranked his best runs in an interesting way.

1. “Conn Smythe Malkin.”
2. “Current Malkin.”
3. “Art Ross Malkin.”

Malkin earned the Art Ross and Conn Smythe in the same world-beating 2008-09 season, but for the sake of fun, let’s look at those “three Malkins” through the simplest of stats.

“Current Malkin”: 40 Games Played: 25 goals, 30 assists for 55 points (1.375 per game)
“Art Ross Malkin”: 82 GP: 35 goals, 78 assists for 113 points (1.378 per game)
“Conn Smythe Malkin”: 24 GP: 14 goals, 22 assists for 36 points (1.5 points per game)

Seriously, Malkin scored 1.5 points per game in the playoffs that year.

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that Malkin is approaching the level that some worried he’d never reach again after he struggled a bit with fatigue and injuries 2009-10 and 2010-11. Then again, context – minus Sidney Crosby, plus James Neal – could prompt some to believe that he’s at a new level of excellence.

However his work stacks up to his greatest hits, most hockey fans have been delighted to watch Malkin return to his superhuman form of old – unless he’s rumbling down the ice against their own team.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.