Well, it's about time the Pens won a game and didn't force me to down a bottle of Tums.
This one was over before it started as the Thrashers were without several players, but most notably Ilya Kovalchuk.
The 6-2 win tonight ties the Pens with the Flyers for 4th in the Eastern Conference, but the Flyers have three games in hand.
There were some anxious moments early when Bryan Little banged home his own rebound just 34 seconds into the game.
The only reason this puck ended up in the net is because of Hal Gill who practically handed the lead to Atlanta.
Gill received a pass behind the net from Rob Scuderi and attempted a pass up the boards to Evgeni Malkin. The problem here is that Gill can't handle a puck to save his life and as such, the pass went awry.
Viktor Kozlov picked off the pass and one-touched it on to Little. After a give-and-go with Todd White, Little was wide open at the top of the left faceoff circle. Marc-Andre Fleury made a great first save, but his momentum took him out of the crease and Little slammed the rebound home.
Little should not have been as open as he was. The only reason he was that open was because Gill got confused as to where he was supposed to be and slid over to White was already being marked by Scuderi.
Gill is taking the full point in the standings on this one.
Highlights Courtesy Of NHL.com
Lucky for him, this was Malkin's night to shine as he gathered five points to put him over 100 on the season.
Midway through the first period, the Penguins went on a 5-on-3 powerplay and completely controlled the play. They would have scored had Johan Hedberg not done the splits and robbed Bill Guerin on the backpost.
Right after the two-man advantage ended Malkin fed Guerin who found Sergei Gonchar at the point. Gonchar teed it up and found the twine around a screen set up by Chris Kunitz to tie the game at 1-1.
With under a minute to play in the period, the Penguins went back on the powerplay and Kunitz found the back of the net on a rebound shot by Sidney Crosby. Kunitz has been unconscious since coming to Pittsburgh and is showing no signs of waking up any time soon. Malkin got the secondary assist for his second point of the night.
With the Penguins up 3-1, Malkin decided it was time to put on a show for the fans. Both sides were short a man and a short 4-on-4 play took place. Malkin won the draw back to Kris Letang who made a quick pass to Gonchar. Again, Gonchar wasted no time in letting one fly and Malkin was there to deposit the rebound into the empty net for his third point.
Just 43 seconds later Malkin connected again on a one-timer from the farside halfboards that beat Hedberg clean.
Malkin capped his evening when he took a big hit, but sprung Gonchar and Mark Eaton for a 2-on-1 on Hedberg. Gonchar waited out the defenseman and slid a slick pass to Eaton, who had a wide open net to make the score 6-2.
The Mellon Arena starting chanting "Geno! Geno!" for a majority of the third period hoping that he would get the hat trick and he had a golden opportunity to do so.
With about three minutes to play, Malkin was hauled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. As he closed in on Hedberg, he threw a bunch of head and shoulder fakes to try and confuse the goaltender, but it did not work. Hedberg stuck with him and forced Malkin to shoot wide.
The game turned nasty and tensions finally boiled over late in the third period. A melee ensued behind Fleury's net that saw Eric Godard and Boris Valabik engage in a very short fight. Valabik threw one haymaker and immediately dropped to the ice favoring his shoulder. He skated directly to the gate and did not return.
Earlier, Matt Cooke went to put a hit on Zach Bogosian, but ended up colliding with the young defenseman's knee. Bogosian tried to stay in the game, but eventually left and did not return.
Jordan Staal scored his 20th goal of the season on the lone goal that Malkin didn't figure in on in the game. Staal has taken his game to a new level since Dan Bylsma became coach. Something tells me he likes the aggressive forecheck and wide open playstyle that the Pens have shown of late.
As for the second Thrashers goal:
Chris Thorburn moves out of the corner with the puck and Max Talbot draped all over him. Brooks Orpik slides over to him leaving Eric Boulton open with space five feet away from Fleury.
Boulton attempts a pass through Eaton, but the puck hits a stick and pops up and appears to hit Eaton in the face or upper chest and bounce behind Fleury to cut the lead to 5-2.
Talbot will receive 0.5 for allowing his man to beat him in the corner and Orpik gets the other 0.5 for not staying with his man when Thorburn had nothing to shoot at and would have had to make an incredible shot with Talbot in hot pursuit.
Updated Hal Gill Quotient Standings:
Kris Letang - 6.34 - 13 GP
Marc-Andre Fleury - 5.08 - 15 GP
Sergei Gonchar - 5.08 - 14 GP
Hal Gill - 5.34 - 15 GP
Mark Eaton - 4.83 - 16 GP
Brooks Orpik - 5.09 - 16 GP
Rob Scuderi - 3.50 - 16 GP
Ryan Whitney - 3.5 - 6 GP - TRADED
Jordan Staal - 2.38 - 16 GP
Evgeni Malkin - 2.0 - 16 GP
Matt Cooke - 1.0 - 16 GP
Ruslan Fedotenko - 1.0 16 GP
Tyler Kennedy - 1.0 - 16 GP
Pascal Dupuis - .83 - 16 GP
Max Talbot - 1.0 - 16 GP
Sidney Crosby - 0.5 - 12 GP
Referee Paul Devorski - 0.5 - 1 Game Reffed
Bill Thomas - .33 - 5 GP - WAIVED
Up next for the Penguins are the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night at the Igloo.