Hagelin shines as Penguins beat Jets in Malkin’s return

Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup and Carl Hagelin scored two goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Winnipeg Jets.

PITTSBURGH — Evgeni Malkin‘s return to the lineup brought out the best in linemate Carl Hagelin.

Hagelin scored twice and the Pittsburgh Penguins welcomed Malkin back from injury with a 4-1 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

“He’s obviously one of the best players in the league, so he’s going to open up a lot of room,” Hagelin said. “When he’s on his game, the other team has to pay so much attention to him.”

That was good news for Hagelin. He scored his sixth and seventh of the season for Pittsburgh and Scott Wilson added a third-period goal.

Defenceman Kris Letang scored his 10th of the season for the Penguins, who had Malkin back in the lineup after the 2012 NHL MVP missed 10 games with a lower-body injury. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 shots for his 25th win.

“I thought overall the game (Malkin’s) line played was pretty solid,” Penguins’ coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’re a threat every time they’re on the ice and I think when those three guys play together their speed is evident.”

The Penguins won their 15th straight home game against Winnipeg, the NHL’s second-longest streak against any opponent. The Jets haven’t won in Pittsburgh since Dec. 27, 2006, when they were known as the Atlanta Thrashers.

Blake Wheeler scored his 18th of the season for the Jets, who have lost six of their last eight games.

Penguins’ centre Nick Bonino also returned for the first time since Jan. 12 after missing 17 games with a hand injury.

Michael Hutchinson made 29 saves for Winnipeg.

“We came out and we battled hard,” Hutchinson said. “We just kind of kept coming and kind of took it to them for a little bit. The puck just wasn’t going in the net.”

Wilson tipped Derrick Pouliot‘s point shot behind Hutchinson for his fourth goal in five games, giving the Penguins a two-goal lead 5:19 into the third period. Hagelin made it a 4-1 game later in the period on a one-timer from Phil Kessel. It was his second of the game and third with Pittsburgh since he was acquired Jan. 16 from Anaheim.

“I think it was important for us to get that 3-1 goal,” Hagelin said. “It was key and it definitely kind of put them away.”

Pittsburgh went 5-4-1 without its leading scorer Malkin. When he was injured, he was tied for ninth in league scoring, second in power-play points and tied for seventh in goals. Pittsburgh struggled on the power play without him, going 1-for-24. The Penguins were eighth in the league, converting at a 20 per cent success rate with Malkin in the lineup.

“(Malkin), I thought was really strong,” Sullivan said. “I think his conditioning will only get better as he gets his timing back and gets back into game mode.”

The Jets were without a pair of 17-goal scorers after former captain Andrew Ladd was traded to the Blackhawks on Thursday and Bryan Little was recently lost for the season with a fractured vertebrae.

Marko Dano played his first game with Winnipeg on Saturday. The Jets acquired the 2013 first-rounder and two draft picks from the Blackhawks along with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison. Dano, who played 48 NHL games with Columbus and Chicago, finished a minus-2 with three shots in 13:50 of ice time on Saturday.

The teams played a scoreless opening period, but Pittsburgh quickly broke the deadlock with two goals in the first minute of the second.

Letang scored 28 seconds into the period with a slap shot over Hutchinson’s glove off the rush. Hagelin tipped Ian Cole‘s shot from the point past Hutchinson 23 seconds later.

The Penguins looked to score another but Hutchinson denied Sidney Crosby’s partial open-net opportunity with a diving, desperation stick save.

“I had saucers when I looked over and saw Crosby with a wide-open net,” Hutchinson said. “I just kind of threw my stick and hoped for the best and I was fortunate that it hit off my stick and didn’t go in.”

NOTES: The Penguins signed D Olli Maatta to a six-year contract extension on Friday that will keep the 21-year-old in Pittsburgh through the 2021-22 season. … Penguins F Conor Sheary left Saturday’s game in the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. … Pittsburgh scratched forwards Kevin Porter, Sergei Plotnikov and recently recalled defenceman Steve Oleksy. Winnipeg was without Paul Postma and Matt Halischuk. … Pittsburgh will play five games in the next seven days beginning Monday at home against Arizona. … The Jets will play five home games in eight days beginning Tuesday against Florida.

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