“Last couple weeks, I'm a little bit nervous," Malkin admitted after the game. "It's like a little bit slow, but it's finally over. I breathe normally. Thanking my teammates. Special day for my family, my friends."
Malkin had only two assists in his previous four games, making it a tricky time for his patience, but against the rival Washington Capitals on Tuesday night he finally got there, assisting on a Sidney Crosby goal in the second period to make 999 points and then assisting on a Phil Kessel power-play goal at 11:56 of the third.
“Growing up in a small city (Magnitogorsk, Russia), I never could believe I would play in the NHL and score 1,000 points,” he continued. “It's an absolutely amazing night for me. It's one of the best nights of my life, for sure.”
The game was all the more special because the Penguins beat fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals, 5-3. Ovechkin also had a memorable night—he also earned an assist for his 1,200th career point.
The top-scoring Russians of all time are now Ovechkin (1,200), Sergei Fedorov (1,179), Alexander Mogilny (1,032), Alexei Kovalev (1,029), and Malkin (1,000). Malkin hit 1,000 in his 848th game, the fastest of any of the Russian players and 20th fastest all time.
Ovechkin and Malkin are good friends and are also forever connected by another NHL fact. Ovechkin was drafted first overall by the Caps in 2004, and the second selection, by the Penguins, was Malkin.
As well, they are the only two Russians to have played for only one team during their lengthy NHL careers.
Malkin has been the model of consistency. He has scored 20 or more goals in a season five times, 30 or more three times, 40 or more twice, and 50 once. He has had three seasons eclipsing 100 points and has a plethora of awards on his shelf, starting with three Stanley Cup victories (2009, 2016, 2017).
Malkin won the Calder Trophy in 2006-07, a year after Ovechkin, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2009, the first Cup win for this generation of the Penguins. He won the Art Ross Trophy first in 2008-09, but 2011-12 was a special year. He won the Art Ross, Hart, and Lindsay Awards together.
Of course, few players of the modern era have won as much as he in international competition as well. Malkin has a gold medal from the 2004 U18 World Championships, two golds from the 2012 and 2014 World Championships, two silver from both the World Juniors (2005, 2006) and World Championship (2010, 2015), a bronze from the U18 (2003), and two more bronze from the 2005 and 2007 Worlds.
The 32-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. He is averaging well over a point a game again, as he has all of his career, and the Penguins look poised to make the playoffs again. Incredibly, during Malkin’s 13 years with the team, the Pens have never missed the playoffs.
"I'm happy for him,” said captain Sidney Crosby, who has played alongside “Geno” every step of the way. “It was only a matter of time when he's this close, but that's a great milestone. He's done so much over the years.”