NHL Scoring Leaders: Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos Battling to the End

Ryan O'LearyFeatured Columnist IMarch 26, 2012

Evgeni Malkin sits ten points ahead of Steve Stamkos for the Art Ross Trophy with seven games remaining.
Evgeni Malkin sits ten points ahead of Steve Stamkos for the Art Ross Trophy with seven games remaining.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Evgeni Malkin is not a selfish player.

Yet, with a strong 4-2 lead in hand, and a yawning open net staring him in the face, the Penguins dynamo took his shot.

Malkin's empty-netter salted away a 5-2 victory over the Devils on Sunday evening and extended his league-leading point total to 97.

Typically, Malkin might pass the puck in that situation, especially from 100 feet away and with two Devil defenders bearing down.

But for Malkin, this is not a typical situation—the Art Ross Trophy is at stake.

And after Steve Stamkos' performance the night before, putting two goals and an assist against the Islanders, Malkin was not about to provide the Lightning superstar any quarter.

No. 71 snatched up two more points to stay 10 points ahead of Stamkos and, with seven games remaining, Malkin also has the Rocket Richard trophy in his cross-hairs.

The Rocket Richard Trophy is handed out to the player with the most goals at the end of the season. After last night, Malkin is just five behind of Stamkos' 52 tallies with 47 on the year.

In light of just a few games remaining on the calendar, that number might seem daunting—even insurmountable, but not to Malkin, who is on a torrid streak.

In 37 games since the New Year, he's recorded 54 points, equating to 1.45 points per game—most of the time without Sidney Crosby on the ice.

On three occasions over that span, Malkin has posted gaudy five point nights.

It's unlikely that Stamkos will catch Malkin in terms of points, but he is unlikely to wither away and relinquish that five goal lead.

Look no further than Saturday night, when he posted those three points in a game that had no bearing on the standings, as the Lightning season has been all but over for a couple weeks now.

This season marks Stamkos' second 50-plus goal campaign. He previously crossed the threshold in 2009 with 51—splitting the Rocket Richard trophy with Crosby in the process.

Though there is little for the Lightning to play for, Stamkos' pride in on the line.

Pride in his status as one of the league's most lethal snipers and pride in being a competitor.

With nine goals in his last 12 outings, Stamkos is proving his might and determination, even if it's just an individual award he's after.

Then again, he's done all he can to put his team in contention this year.

He deserves the accolade.

On the other hand, Evgeni Malkin is not about to pity Stamkos—making the final stretch for hockey's most prestigious scoring awards one to watch.

Ryan O'Leary is a writer and researcher for Bleacher Report's Video Production Department with seven years experience in the sports industry. Ryan covered the 2010 Vancouver Olympic hockey tournament with CTV and has spent time covering the IIHF World Championships, NHL and collegiate hockey during his career.