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NHL Awards: Evgeni Malkin takes home Hart Trophy

Lundqvist wins Vezina; Karlsson gets Selke

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Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin poses with the Ted Lindsay Award, the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Trophy during the NHL Awards on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in Las Vegas. The Hart Trophy honors the NHL’s most valuable player, the Art Ross Trophy recognizes the league’s top scorer and the Ted Lindsay Award establishes Malkin as the NHL’s best player by fellow NHLPA members. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

LAS VEGAS — Geno and the Swedes were hockey’s biggest winners in Vegas.

Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin won the Hart Trophy on Wednesday night, becoming the NHL’s most valuable player for the first time. Three Swedish players also claimed major trophies at the annual NHL Awards postseason ceremony, but the Penguins’ Russian superstar claimed three awards for himself.

Malkin won the Hart for the first time at the Wynn Las Vegas casino, beating out Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Tampa Bay scorer Steven Stamkos. Malkin also collected the Art Ross Trophy as the league scoring champion and the Ted Lindsay Award from his fellow NHLPA members as the NHL’s best player.

“It’s the best day of my life,” said Malkin, known to teammates and fans as Geno. “It’s very exciting.”

Malkin gathered the Hart, Ross and Lindsay awards next to him after the ceremony, only occasionally struggling in his ever-improving English to express his excitement. Malkin’s 109-point season and steady leadership were even more impressive because he largely did it without teammate Sidney Crosby, who played just 22 games after his comeback from a concussion.

“I can’t believe I’m sitting here, and around me there are three trophies,” Malkin said. “It’s an unbelievable day for me.”

Malkin, who turns 26 next month, edged out Stamkos and Lundqvist, who still won the Vezina Trophy for the first time.

Lundqvist’s win in his fourth Vezina nomination topped the impressive list of Swedish winners. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie.

Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson also won the King Clancy Trophy for humanitarian contributions to hockey.

“For sure, it’s a great year for Sweden,” Lundqvist said.

St. Louis also had a pretty good day in Vegas: Ken Hitchcock won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s top coach for the first time in his lengthy career, while Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was selected he league’s top executive. Blues goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott also picked up their Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the regular season.

Boston forward Patrice Bergeron won his first Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. Florida’s Brian Campbell became the first defenseman since 1954 to win the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanlike play, and Montreal forward Max Pacioretty won the Masterton Trophy for his comeback from serious injury.

But the spotlight was on Malkin, who won his first MVP award after arguably the most impressive season of his six-year career in Pittsburgh.

Malkin had a career-high 50 goals and 59 assists while carrying the Penguins during the extended injury absence of 2007 Hart winner Crosby. Malkin was the NHL’s only 100-point scorer this season and the first scoring champion in a decade to win a second title despite being almost every opponent’s top defensive target whenever they faced the Penguins.

Malkin also grew into a more prominent role outside of Crosby’s shadow.

“Every year I’m a little bit more comfortable,” he said. “I learn English, watch TV, go out with friends and teammates. I love this sport. I like my teammates, and I want to be the best.”

Malkin scored eight points in the Penguins’ six-game loss to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. The four-time NHL All-Star then was named the MVP of the IIHF World Championships last month after leading the undefeated Russian team to the title.

Malkin was a Hart finalist for the third time. He won the vote over Stamkos, who already had wrapped up the Richard Trophy with an NHL-best 60 goals.

Lundqvist didn’t seem disappointed about losing out on the Hart after the Rangers’ tireless goalie finally claimed the Vezina. He went 39-18-5 with eight shutouts, a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage while repeatedly keeping New York on track to the Eastern Conference’s best record.

Lundqvist beat out Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick, who got two better prizes last week when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL’s playoff MVP for backstopping the Kings to their first championship.

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