ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Evgeni Malkin couldn’t have dreamed up a better return to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup.
The four-time All-Star and 2012 Hart Trophy winner scored twice and had an assist in his season debut Tuesday night as the surging Penguins rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
“Obviously we were hopeful that he’d have an immediate impact, and to score two goals like he did tonight, set up an empty-netter on one of (Jeff Carter’s) goals, was quite an impact on the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
Malkin had not played since undergoing right knee surgery in June. He missed Pittsburgh’s first 34 games, but had been skating with teammates for several weeks and was a full participant in Monday’s practice.
The 35-year-old Russian star centered the second line between Carter and Kasperi Kapanen, which was responsible for all four Pittsburgh goals. Carter scored two and Kapanen had two assists.
It was Malkin’s 63rd multigoal game during the regular season and first since March 10, 2020. He had a career-low eight goals and 28 points in 33 games last season.
“It was a long process for me. This was the longest break in my life,” said Malkin, who got 20 shifts and 17:21 of ice time. “We won and I scored a couple of goals — it felt amazing. I feel so at ease right now.”
Tristan Jarry stopped 25 shots for the Penguins, who bounced right back from Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Dallas that snapped a 10-game winning streak.
Jakob Silfverberg scored Anaheim’s goal and Anthony Stolarz made 30 saves. The Ducks have dropped four of six.
“I do believe our guys were trying. They were trying to keep level-headed and neutral in their thinking coming out of the first,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “I did think we got better as the game went on, but it just took a while for us to get our feet underneath us.”
Malkin got his first goal on a power play at 3:27 of the second period to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 advantage. He ripped a 47-foot slap shot that went through Stolarz’s legs. Sidney Crosby, screening Stolarz on the play, had to leap and just avoided the puck deflecting off his skate.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather, and community events that matter to you.