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PITTSBURGH (AP) – Evgeni Malkin got his 12th career hat trick and Bryan Rust scored two goals as the surging Pittsburgh Penguins rallied for a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
Malkin’s 24th goal of the season late in the second period tied it. His 25th early in the third gave Pittsburgh the lead for good and his 26th rolled into an empty net with just more than a minute remaining as the Penguins won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Matt Murray stopped 40 shots in his first start since the death of his father, James, this month.
Brent Burns and Logan Couture scored power-play goals for the Sharks but San Jose dropped its second straight game without Joe Thornton, who is out indefinitely with a right leg injury.
Martin Jones finished with 26 saves but also gave the puck away behind the San Jose net in the third period. Patric Hornqvist intercepted Jones’ sloppy clearing attempt and fed it in front to a streaking Malkin, who had little trouble putting it into an open net 6:01 into the third.
Rust, hindered by injuries this season, doubled Pittsburgh’s advantage 13:58 into the third thanks to a pretty between-the-legs drop pass from Tom Kuhnhackl before Malkin finished off Pittsburgh’s sixth straight home victory.
The Penguins returned from the All-Star break looking to build off their best extended play of the season, which has lifted the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions out of a funk and back into the thick of the packed Metropolitan Division race.
It’s a surge they’ve made largely without Murray, who took a leave of absence after his father died on Jan. 16. Casey DeSmith and Tristian Jarry filled in capably with Murray out, but the 23-year-old let coach Mike Sullivan know he was ready to go as his team began what it hopes is a push toward another long playoff run.
Murray certainly looked sharp in his first start since shutting out Boston on Jan. 7, keeping the Penguins in it as San Jose dominated play for long stretches.
Rust’s first goal since Nov. 27 on a slick backhand that slid by Jones gave Pittsburgh the lead 11:09 into the first, but the Sharks used a pair of power-play goals in the second to surge ahead. Burns slipped a wrist shot from the point through traffic to tie it at the game’s midway point and Couture pounded home a rebound 18:35 into the second to put San Jose in front.
With time winding down in the second, Phil Kessel went to the corner and fed a blind backhand pass to Malkin, who ripped it by Jones with just four seconds left to even the score and give the Penguins a serious boost.
NOTES: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby got an assist on Malkin’s empty-netter to extend his point streak to 10 games. … Malkin played in his 754th career game, passing Jean Provonost for fourth-most in franchise history. … The Sharks scratched forward Jannik Hansen, C Daniel O’Regan and D Tim Heed. The Penguins scratched D Chad Ruhwedel, D Matt Hunwick and forward Ryan Reaves. … Pittsburgh went 0 for 3 on the power play. The Sharks were 2 for 5 with the man advantage.
Sharks: Continue their five-game road trip Wednesday in Detroit.
Penguins: Host the Washington Capitals on Friday.
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