Kings outdone by youths
The kids are all right in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins seem to have cornered the market on sleek, skilled, young goal scorers.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and the rest of the Penguins’ brat pack displayed their flash and dash to entertain those who used their tickets among the announced capacity of 18,118 at Staples Center on Wednesday.
By the time play was finished, the Penguins had a 4-3 overtime victory, earned when the 20-year-old Malkin banged in a rebound for a power-play goal 2 minutes 45 seconds into overtime. The Kings got a point and the Penguins, bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference this millennium, earned a little more respect.
“That is some talented players who are going to be around for many years to come,” Kings defenseman Mattias Norstrom said.
The Penguins had 10 players younger than 25, among them their last six first-round draft picks. That included the 19-year-old Crosby, the NHL’s most dangerous teenager, who had three assists. Staal, 18, scored his fourth goal in four games. Malkin, with a goal in six consecutive games to start his career, tied an NHL record that had stood since 1917-18.
The Penguins didn’t wilt, overcoming a 3-2 third-period deficit, and are off to their best start since the 1994-95 season with a 7-3-0 record.
“The best thing about this team is no one is satisfied with just being here,” Crosby said. “We all are working to be better players.”
That could be a little scary for the rest of the NHL. For now, it was just disheartening for the Kings, who have lost 11 of 15 games.
“There was no fault in our effort, but I questioned some of our decisions we made in the offensive zone,” Coach Marc Crawford said.
The Kings had the upper hand through two periods, with a 3-2 lead on goals by Michael Cammalleri, Dustin Brown and Rob Blake. That was erased when Noah Welch, 24, tied the score with a shot that went off Norstrom’s skate 7:47 into the third period.
“We had to be ready, because we knew none of those guys were out in the bars last night,” Cammalleri said. “They aren’t old enough to get in.”
The Penguins certainly arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed, scoring two goals on their first four shots on goal.
Malkin has been likened to former Penguins star Mario Lemieux, a future Hall of Fame member, which might apply unnecessary pressure. But Malkin seems to enjoy the comparison.
“It’s an honor,” Malkin said this week, but added, “I have to prove a lot more what I can do on the ice.”
Malkin has proved his worth repeatedly since returning, and Wednesday was no different. He set up in the slot, with not a King within stick reach of him, and buried a pass from Crosby to end a 1-1 tie 8:29 into the first period.
“It’s not that they have all that skill, they also never let up,” Kings defenseman Aaron Miller said. “They’re constantly back-checking you.”
Staal, the second overall pick in June, had already displayed why the Penguins decided to hang onto him this week rather than send him back to junior hockey.
He sashayed unmolested to the net, where he redirected a pass from Mark Recchi for his fifth goal in his 10th NHL game, tying the score, 1-1, 1:15 into the game.
Kings forward Jeff Cowan will be out at least a week because of a sore chest and shoulder after being run head-first into the boards against the New York Rangers on Monday night.