Cheers of "MVP" filled Consol Energy Center on Thursday evening. And forward Evgeni Malkin obliged the announced crowd of 18,579 with another superb performance.

Malkin, the NHL's scoring leader, had two goals for the Penguins in a 5-1 victory over the Predators — clinching a playoff berth for Pittsburgh — on two blasts from the circles. One knuckled in on Pekka Rinne; the other was a hard shot that found the small opening on the corner.

"He was dynamite," Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. "If I had to vote today, there is no question he would be MVP for me. I saw him once up close, and he was great."

With forward Sidney Crosby missing all but 13 games this season with a concussion, Malkin has needed to provide offense for Pittsburgh. After Thursday's game, Malkin had 95 points in 66 games.

"He's one of the better players in the world, and he teed it up a few times tonight and put it in," Rinne said. "I have to be better, but you have to respect that guy's skill, too."

Malkin might have had some extra motivation. He and Predators forward Alexander Radulov — who played his first game in the NHL since 2008 — are good friends. The two conversed both before and after the game in the basement of the arena.