PITTSBURGH – Evgeni Malkin’s favorite running mate is serving a five-game NHL suspension.
No matter. The Pittsburgh Penguins star can handle things by himself when he needs to.
Malkin scored in his return from a lower-body injury, Sidney Crosby added his 16th goal, and the Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Monday night.
Pittsburgh won its sixth straight home game behind 32 saves by Marc-Andre Fleury and some vintage work by Malkin. The Russian missed Pittsburgh’s previous two games after hurting himself in a game-day skate on Thursday.
He appeared to be just fine when he bulled his way toward the Columbus net 4:16 into the second period for his eighth goal of the season. Malkin brushed off defenseman Jack Johnson and then deftly poked a shot past the outstretched stick of goalie Curtis McElhinney.
Not bad for a guy who sometimes struggles when separated from linemate James Neal, who served the first game of the suspension he received for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head during a loss on Saturday.
“There’s no doubt they’re good together,” Crosby said. “They’re both really good players. When they don’t have each other, they’re capable of making plays, too.”
Crosby pushed his point total to an NHL-best 43 when a centering pass from Pascal Dupuis deflected off Crosby’s leg and into the net 8:52 into the third.
“It looked like that was the only way I was going to score tonight the way it was going,” Crosby said. “I had some really pretty chances that didn’t go in . . . that second one ended up being important for us.”
Matt Calvert scored with less than a minute left for Columbus, spoiling Fleury’s shutout bid. McElhinney made 28 saves but the Blue Jackets struggled again in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have won all three meetings this season by a combined score of 9-3.
Fleury was sharp when tested, though Pittsburgh did an excellent job of keeping the Blue Jackets from spending too much time in his face.
There were few close calls by the Blue Jackets after the opening 10 minutes. Fleury’s only mistake came when he narrowly missed scoring a goal into an empty net with a minute to play, inadvertently sparking a sequence that led to Calvert getting loose for his second goal of the season with 56 seconds remaining.
Pittsburgh, which allowed two goals to Boston in the final minute on Saturday, didn’t collapse this time.
“The main thing is we got the win, got the two points,” Fleury said. “That’s what matters.”
Ducks 5, Islanders 2
In Anaheim, Corey Perry scored two goals and captain Ryan Getzlaf extended his point streak to 12 games in the Ducks’ victory over spiraling New York.
Cam Fowler had his first career short-handed goal and added two assists. Saku Koivu scored his first goal in nearly two months in Anaheim’s third consecutive win and the Islanders’ 10th consecutive loss.
John Tavares and Thomas Vanek scored for New York, which also has lost 10 consecutive road games since Nov. 1.
Canucks 2, Hurricanes 0
In Vancouver, Eddie Lack made 31 saves in his first NHL shutout, and the hosts beat Carolina.
With No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo getting the night off, the rookie earned his fourth win of the season in his first appearance at Rogers Arena.
Senators 5, Flyers 4 (SO)
In Ottawa, Jason Spezza scored the winning goal in the shootout to lift the Senators over Philadelphia.
Clarke MacArthur had two regulation goals for Ottawa (12-14-5), and Patrick Wiercioch and Kyle Turris also scored.