The puck ended up on Evgeni Malkin's stick, and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher could feel a sense of dread.
It didn't matter that the Pittsburgh Penguins center hadn't played in more than a week due to a concussion. Give the reigning NHL MVP a sheet of open ice in a tight game and things typically aren't going to end well.
''We gave it to him,'' Boucher said. ''That's unacceptable.''
So was the result for Tampa Bay.
Seconds later, Malkin split two defenders and tucked the puck into a wide-open net to tie the game, sparking a furious third-period rally as the Penguins beat the Lightning 4-3 on Monday night.
Malkin later added an assist on James Neal's empty-net goal, punctuating the Russian's return 11 days after suffering short-term memory loss and headaches when he slammed into the end boards during a win over Florida on Feb. 22. The 26-year-old was cleared to return to practice Sunday and was given the OK to play after passing the litany of NHL-mandated tests.