Malkin powers Penguins past Thrashers

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By Phil Foley

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins

were happy to have Marc-Andre Fleury back in the fold.

Malkin recorded two goals and two assists and Fleury steered

aside 28 shots in his first game back in a month as the Penguins

scored three times in the second period and cruised to a 6-3

triumph over the listless Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday.

Jordan Staal netted a goal and an assist and Miroslav Satan

added his 12th tally for the Penguins, who won for just the

second time in six games.

"It was good (to be back)," Fleury said. "I was excited for the

game. It's good to be back with the guys. It was fun to win

it."

Without its No. 1 goaltender Fleury, Pittsburgh had struggled in

December, winning just twice in seven games entering its tilt

against the Thrashers.

Fleury returned to the ice on Thursday after missing 13 games

with a back injury.?? The 24-year-old Pittsburgh netminder, who

led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, was back

making acrobatic saves. And the Penguins were back to their

winning ways.

"We were hoping for a solid game (from Fleury)," Pittsburgh

coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought he was phenomenal. He

made key save after key save early in the game."

Of course, it helped that his club scored early and often

against the lowly Thrashers, who have just three wins since

November 14.

Matt Cooke whistled a wrister from the left faceoff circle

between the net and the right blocker of Atlanta netminder

Ondrej Pavelec to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead just 5:23 into the

contest.

Malkin muscled past Todd White and deposited the puck into the

empty left side of the net at the 9:40 mark of the first period

on Pittsburgh's fourth shot of the night as an ominous trend

continued for the home team at the place they call "Blueland."

Four shots on net.?? Atlanta was down by two.

At least it was better start than Pavelec's than last time here,

when he allowed three goals on four shots against the Boston

Bruins last Friday.

"We played a good game, but we played a good game against Boston

and lost 7-3 (last Friday)," Thrashers coach John Anderson said.

"We have to play excellent. We can't let any mistakes creep

into our game or else we pay for it."

Marty Reasoner halved the deficit with 38 seconds remaining in

the first.?? Kovalchuk's shot from the left point deflected off

of the body of Reasoner, who was thrown into Pittsburgh

blueliner Brooks Orpik by captain Sidney Crosby.

A melee ensued in front of the net with the Pittsburgh superstar

picking up a rare roughing penalty.

But the Penguins held Atlanta at bay on the ensuing power play

and took control in with a pair of second-period tallies.??

Staal restored Pittsburgh's two-goal cushion, deflecting

Malkin's slap shot from the right point 3:30 into the second

period before Satan put the Penguins up three with a backhanded

tally from the slot just over two minutes later.

??

Malkin, who leads the league with 53 points and 39 assists, also

set up Pittsburgh's fifth goal, setting up defenseman Philippe

Boucher to give the Penguins a 5-2 lead at 8:04 of the middle

period.

"Malkin played an outstanding game," Therrien said. "It's nice

to see a player like that paying attention to detail and getting

rewarded."

Frank Sinatra's ominous power ballad "That's Life" cascaded from

Philips Arena sound system after the tally.

Pavelec, who stopped just eight of 13 shots, was through.

Johan Hedberg set aside six shots in relief of Pavelec.

Malkin added an empty net tally with 26 seconds remaining for

the final margin of victory.

Bryan Little and former Penguin Colby Armstrong added tallies

for Atlanta, which fell to 1-13-2 against the top seven clubs in

the NHL.

"There have been games this year when we have started then

stopped," Hedberg said. "What we need to do is keep the train

rolling.

"You can't afford to stop against teams like (Pittsburgh). They

are too good. They are going to make you pay and they did

tonight."

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