1 of 3 | Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) joins Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) in congratulating Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) following the Penguins 4-0 win at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on February 14, 2017. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin had not played since Jan. 24. The seven-game injury layoff and any resulting rust wasn't evident Tuesday.
Malkin opened the scoring in the second period, added an assist in the third and generally played like one of the league's top scorers as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 at PPG Paints Arena.
"He's one of the best in the world, so we've come to kind of expect that from a guy like him, and he showed it -- he got that huge first goal for us, and we didn't look back," said Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray, who made 29 saves for his third shutout of the season and fourth of his career.
Malkin pushed his point total to 56 as he kept pace with others near the top of the league scoring race despite the extended injury timeout.
"I feel OK," said Malkin, who had a left leg injury. "The first game (back) is always hard. The first period I was a little bit tired. But I hope next game my confidence comes back and (how I feel) comes back.
"It's more fun to play a game. The last two weeks I just worked hard in practice."
Malkin's return gave Pittsburgh a dynamic it had been missing even while adding points -- the Penguins (35-13-7) extended their streak of games with at least one point to seven (5-0-2). They pelted Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller with 42 shots and dominated throughout the game.
"You can see the influence he has on our team," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Malkin. "We become a much more difficult team to play against because of the balance he brings.
"He's such a threat when he's on the ice. He's one of the elite players in the league that has the ability to change the outcome."
Malkin's presence took some pressure off of fellow star center Sidney Crosby, who picked up an assist on a goal by Jake Guentzel, giving him 999 career points.
Crosby has been within three points of 1,000 for more than a week. Coming into the game, he had gone back-to-back games without a point for the first time in nearly a calendar year.
The Canucks had won two of their past three games. But they were playing without centers Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter because of injuries they sustained Sunday and going with seven defensemen. They slipped below .500 at 25-26-6.
"It was more back-and-forth than maybe we were used to," Canucks winger Daniel Sedin said. "We had enough chances to score. They put a few of theirs in, and we didn't score on ours.
"They're a dangerous team when they get their chances, but like I said, we had enough chances to score, too. It's up to us to even this game up."
Malkin gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 5:16 of the second period for what held up as his team-leading fifth game-winner. He was stationed at the corner of the crease when he stopped a pass from the far boards by Olli Maatta with his skates and with Miller leaning the other way. Malkin tapped it in for his 23rd goal of the season.
Malkin said he had enough time to make sure he got his stick on the puck so there would be no questioning whether he put the puck in with his skate.
Trevor Daley picked up the secondary assist, the 200th assist of his career.
Murray preserved the one-goal lead when he made a point-blank glove save on Jack Skille at 16:33 of the second period.
Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead and Crosby got point No. 999 when he set up Guentzel just in front of the net at 2:27 of the third. On a give-and-go, Guentzel finished a feed from Crosby, who was beside the net.
Malkin toyed with Miller, holding the puck and deking around a couple of Canucks, pausing in the slot and then dishing off to Phil Kessel, who gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead at 14:03 of the third period.
"The first time we went two-on-one, I tried to pass to him and he tried to pass it back and it didn't work," Malkin said of Kessel. "Now I passed to him and he shot it. I just looked (for) him. I saw he was open and I just waited a little bit."
Matt Cullen pushed it to 4-0 with 1:57 left from beside the net.
"We knew it would be that kind of night with the bodies that were missing and how we had to stack the lineup," Miller said. "We had opportunities. We just couldn't get it in there.
"I don't know. We started to press and gave them odd-man rushes. We tried to make something happen and made considerable amount of mistakes late in the third."
NOTES: C Bo Horvat (lower-body injury), Vancouver's leading scorer, and C Brandon Sutter (undisclosed) missed the game after getting banged up Sunday at Buffalo. Sutter participated in the morning skate. Horvat, who did not skate in the morning, is day to day. ... Rookie C Brendan Gaunce slotted in for Horvat and the Canucks dressed Alex Biega as a seventh defenseman. Biega had not played since Jan. 25. ... Vancouver LW Daniel Sedin played in his 1,200th game. ... Pittsburgh C Evgeni Malkin (left leg injury) was activated from IR. ... Penguins LW Carl Hagelin participated in the morning skate wearing a non-contact jersey but is still in the NHL's concussion protocol. ... Pittsburgh LW Conor Sheary (upper-body injury) missed his sixth straight game and continues to skate separately from the team. ... Penguins RW Bryan Rust (upper-body injury) missed his second game and will be out "longer term" but not necessarily for the season, coach Mike Sullivan said. ... The Penguins' healthy scratches were C Eric Fehr and D Chad Ruhwedel. Vancouver's healthy scratch was D Philip Larsen.