MONTREAL - Evgeni Malkin figured it was about time he started making his mark in the NHL.
Malkin secured the Art Ross Trophy, the NHL's scoring title, with a goal in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 3-1 season-ending victory Saturday over the Montreal Canadiens.
His 35th goal of the season gave Malkin 113 points, leaving him three points ahead of fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
"It's my third year playing in the NHL and I understand how to play here," a beaming Malkin said after the game. "My English is a little bit better and my game is better."
Malkin and Ovechkin are said to be bitter rivals on the ice, but after the game Malkin was very gracious to the young Capitals star who made the scoring race pretty tight with a late-season flurry.
"Alex is a good player, and in the last five games he played awesome," Malkin said. "Every game he had three or four points. It made for a good scoring race, but it was better for me."
Malkin said it may be difficult for him to wrench the Hart Trophy as league MVP from the hands of last year's winner Ovechkin, but in Penguins captain Sidney Crosby's eyes the decision is clear.
"He's done a great job all season long," said Crosby, the 2007 Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner. "Consistency is a big thing for any player, especially for one who wants to be recognized for an award like that. To show the consistency he has, he's right up there."
It would be difficult to find a more consistent player than Malkin was in 2008-09. He only failed to get a point in 18 of his 82 games played and he never went more than two straight without getting on the scoresheet. Along the way, he piled up point-scoring streaks of 13, 10 and nine games.
"All season I've wanted to win it," Malkin said. "I had a good summer working out and felt great all season. I started well and now here I am."
This is also the 13th time since 1988 that a Penguins player has won the Art Ross, with Mario Lemieux claiming the trophy six times, Jaromir Jagr five times and Crosby once before Malkin this season.
"In the last 20 years how many guys from Pittsburgh have won it? It's pretty amazing," Crosby said. "Now he can put his name on that list, it's a special accomplishment and well-deserved. It's nice to have it in Pittsburgh."