Evgeni Malkin stood in the right circle just watching the play unfold in front of him when the puck suddenly materialized on his stick with nary a soul around.
The empty net never had a chance.
The Pittsburgh Penguins center wristed his second goal of the season 7:20 into the third period to put the Penguins in front for good in a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Tuesday night.
“Tough angle, great shot by Geno,” Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby said. “He’s been getting chances, it’s always nice to see them go in.”
Something that seems to be happening a lot for the Penguins, who remained unbeaten and largely unchallenged at home. Crosby assisted on all three Pittsburgh goals to vault him into the NHL scoring lead, two of the assists going to linemates Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20 shots to improve to 5-0, including a handful of spectacular saves to fend off the Oilers, who twice rallied to tie the game.
“He’s making all the right saves at the right time,” Kunitz said.
Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle scored for Edmonton. Jason Labarbera made 25 saves but was nowhere to be found on the game-winner.
The Penguins were on the power play when Crosby fed defenseman Paul Martin at the point. Martin wound up for a one-timer but instead dribbled a knuckler that slowly rolled right to Malkin.
“I didn’t know what happened,” Labarbera said. “I look over and the puck is on his stick and I was kind of in no man’s land.”
The Oilers fell to 1-5-1 to quell some early optimism the franchise is heading in the right direction behind former No. 1 picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
“We’ve got to find ways to win games, that’s the bottom line,” Labarbera said. “Every one of us needs to step it up a bit more and find a way to win.”
The Penguins haven’t trailed at home yet this season and wasted little time jumping on the well-traveled Oilers, who were playing their third game in four nights.
Penguins forward Beau Bennett was scratched due to a lower body injury and is “day to day” according to coach Dan Byslma.
Crosby, coming off a hat trick in a victory in Tampa on Saturday, collected the puck behind the Edmonton net and flipped a pass that deflected off Kunitz’s stick and went right to Dupuis, who slipped a shot between Labarbera’s legs to make it 1-0 just 3:08 into the first period.