Perhaps the two most criticized players of the playoffs to date were Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Neither had scored coming into Monday night's Game 6. With a chance to clinch on the road, both showed up in a big way.
Malkin will get the most credit after looking rather dominant while tallying a hat trick through the first two periods.
The first goal came thanks to Crosby drawing three Blue Jackets to him and Chris Kunitz picking up a loose puck. With the Blue Jackets overloading one side, Malkin was all by himself. It was an easy shot for one of the game's elite offensive players.
The second goal came on the power play. Malkin was the beneficiary of a perfect feed from Crosby and his world-class release. Despite not much room, Malkin got a perfect shot off the crossbar and in. Sergei Bobrovsky didn't have a chance.
The third was created by Malkin essentially on his own, grabbing a puck in the neutral zone, looking down James Neal on a two-on-one to sell the pass before whipping it inside the near post.
With all the expectations and pressure players like Malkin face, games like these make a lot of the criticisms melt away. They probably aren't going to die down forever, but a hat trick in a potential clinching game is a rather loud statement from Malkin, while Crosby continued his point-per-game pace this round with his sixth assist of the series.
It appears these two are rather good still.