Thanks to three assists in the Penguins' 4-2, series-salvaging victory over the Red Wings, center Evegni Malkin now has 33. And he is not done.
I had a chance to chat with him after the game about the infamous incident with Henrik Zetterberg that nearly earned him a suspension; the potential for fellow Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk to return to the playoffs for Detroit; whether the Penguins have rattled goalie Chris Osgood; and his Red Bull consumption for playoff games.
Q. You were fired up from the get-go tonight.
MALKIN: From the first minutes of the game we decided to gain the upper hand. From the first line change we were very active going forward. We created a lot of chances and had lots of shots. But after we scored the first goal we lost our game, gave up two goals. After that we, perhaps, got upset a little bit, lost the tempo of the game, slumped in the second period. We only had four shots. But it's good that we pulled it together in the third, came out [strong] like we did in the first. And we finished [them] off.
Did the episode in the last game give you that push to come out and win no matter what?
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I don't know, because there was a clash in front of the net and emotions just ran free. We were losing and there was a little bit of anger. I don't think it was that much of a fight there. We were pulled apart quite quickly. If it did give us that push, then it's good because we won.
Were you targeting Zetterberg specifically? I am just asking because you skated around the net to get to him.
Zetterberg is one of those players who cause your offense the most grief. His play against Sidney Crosby has been very effective. Maybe he just got in your head?
Well, maybe... It's not like that. I don't fight very well myself. I am not a tough guy. These were just emotions because of the losing. We had a lot of chances but didn't score, hit the post. Of course, Zetterberg is an excellent player both in defense and offensively. He performs all of his duties to 100 percent. He is a nuisance to us.
Were you surprised that you were not suspended after that game?
No, I wasn't, because I saw a lot of other incidents when no penalties were called in the playoffs. We were pulled apart pretty quickly. It wasn't even a fight. It shouldn't have even been a penalty.
There were at least two penalties called on you which could have warranted suspension: you got a penalty for instigating that fight; and your jersey was not properly strapped. Both could have had you suspended for at least a game. But the suspension was rescinded very quickly. Were you surprised? Or you just don't think about this?
I didn't think about this. I was thinking about the fact that we lost. I was upset a little bit. I honestly didn't think I could get a penalty for the jersey. It's just I never strap it. As for starting the fight, I don't think I was the first to start it because he had exactly the same moves towards me. And that's why I don't think I am some sort of an instigator... [sigh of relief] It's good that I wasn't suspended.
Did Zetterberg say anything to you tonight? Maybe winked at you?
I very rarely played against him. And he also speaks Swedish, and I speak Russian. So there was no talking. Maybe he did wink at me, but I didn't see it.
Let's talk about tonight's game. Was there a lot of pressure on you? Did you realize that it was a very important game?
Of course, it wasn't just me but everyone understood that this game was the most important of this series. Maybe not the most important one, because the most important ones are ahead of us. But for our team this game was crucial. If we had lost, which we didn't want, it would have made our situation even worse. We had a great motivation and we played great in the first period. It was obvious that all the guys came out to win.
What happened in the game for you and what didn't?
Our power play tonight was really good. We scored two goals on power play and both were extremely important. So, we have to continue working on these things in practice and it will come out for use during games. And what didn't happen? I think it is the second period simply because we lost that period and gave away the momentum. We have to play the entire game and dominate our opponent.
How are you getting ready for a possible "meeting" with Datsyuk? Zetterberg will probably carry on covering Crosby. But Datsyuk will probably be taking care of your line.
I hope he won't be ready to 100 percent. Hope he will be limping a little bit and won't be as quick. Maybe it will be possible to play against him and maybe even score. [Malkin joked] Pavel is a very good player, plays well in defense. He will make both their defense and offense stronger.
How did you figure out Osgood tonight? In your previous two games you had a lot of shots on him but couldn't score.
It's difficult to say. We were shooting just the same. I wouldn't say that we had as many shots, but sometimes luck was [on our side]. He did say in his interviews before that sometimes he would just wave his hand and the puck would just hit him on his hand. [We hit] a couple of posts as well. Maybe we just screened him more and when he cannot see it is difficult for him to play, of course. Just like on the last goal against him, when we were on the power play, he was screened and didn't see anything. We have to shoot more and he will become nervous and will make mistakes.
Do you have the momentum now?
It is difficult to say. Maybe it is 50-50. We won the game and we have a lot of emotions. But they are a very experienced team and probably won't panic. So we have to be even more composed for the next game. Detroit is Detroit, and you cannot take it easy against them even for one minute.
And finally, you are like a man possessed out there. You play with so much energy. Tell me honestly, how many Red Bulls do you drink before each game?
My limit is always one. Just one can. It doesn't change whether it is the final or the semi-final. I don't change my limit. I don't drink coffee, just one Red Bull. Not only that, I spread [that one can] over the three periods taking only a few sips during intermissions.