PITTSBURGH (AP) Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins returned from their bye week and picked up right where they left off.
Malkin had two goals and two assists, and the Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Saturday for their third consecutive victory.
”It’s always fun when you win and have more confidence,” Malkin said. ”Your game is better, the mood is better, and now we’re feeling so much better.”
Phil Kessel added a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh, which had dropped its last three games against Detroit. Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and rookie Tristan Jarry stopped 29 shots in his third straight start while Matt Murray is home in Canada tending to a family matter.
The Penguins have won four of five after dropping seven of their previous 10. Their three-game win streak is their longest since they won four in a row from late November into December.
”I think we’ve felt good about our last couple games going into the break,” Crosby said. ”I don’t think we rest on that. I think we try to continue to get better.”
Justin Abdelkader scored for the Red Wings, who lost their second straight after a four-game winning streak. Jimmy Howard made 32 saves after missing one game with a lower-body injury.
Detroit went 1 for 7 on the power play. Pittsburgh was 2 for 5.
”If you look at it, their best players were better than our best players,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. ”I think if you go down to it, they score. They took care of business on the power play and we didn’t.”
Malkin opened the scoring 3:01 into the first game for each team since their five-day break. Carl Hagelin, from behind the net, fed the puck in the slot to Malkin, who beat Howard to the glove side.
The teams traded power-play goals later in the period.
Abdelkader tied it with a shot between Jarry’s pads and Kessel gave Pittsburgh the lead when he one-touched a Crosby pass behind Howard from in close. The Penguins, the No. 1 unit in the league, have 12 power-play goals in their last 10 games.
Detroit had just one power-play goal in its previous seven games entering Saturday’s contest.
Malkin gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead just 2:08 into the second when he beat Howard to the blocker side off a Kessel feed. Malkin has scored in three straight games. He has 14 points in his last eight games and 12 goals in his last 19 contests.
”As an elite player, (Malkin) is a guy, when he starts to feel it, and he scores a goal, all of the sudden his mindset and confidence level gets higher and the puck tends to follow him,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
Crosby’s third-period power-play goal off a pass from Kessel gave Pittsburgh a three-goal lead. Kessel has eight points in his last five games, while Crosby has 10 in his last five.
”I think it’s nice to get rewarded, feel good about our game and know what it looks like to have that consistency,” Crosby said. ”We can build on that. We have to continue with the same effort and on top of that, continue to get better.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh recalled G Casey DeSmith from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League to serve as Jarry’s backup. … Pittsburgh previously went 17 straight games without allowing a power-play goal. … Red Wings D Trevor Daley played his first game in Pittsburgh since signing with Detroit as a free agent in July. Daley recorded 11 points in 36 playoff games, helping Pittsburgh win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. … The Penguins scratched D Ian Cole, while F David Booth and D Xavier Ouellet sat for the Red Wings.
Red Wings: Visit Chicago on Sunday.
Penguins: host the New York Rangers on Sunday.