Down seven regular players to injury, it has to be a team effort to get by. The Penguins found it tonight as they got contributions from everyone. Even the power-play kicked in with a goal, snapping a streak of weeks without one. Sure the Penguins gave up a short-handed goal, but hey, one step at a time.
Just a minute and a half into the game, Matt Cooke collected a turnover from the Ducks and deposited it past Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the first goal. Then a few minutes later, the power-play finally broke through when Sidney Crosby rifled the puck to Bill Guerin and the old man whipped it from the high slot for a 2-0 lead.
Anaheim would halve the lead when after some lackadaisical Pittsburgh power-play work resulted in Todd Marchant getting a step on the defense and he beat Marc-Andre Fleury to take the score at 2-1 into intermission.
Jordan Staal made a play short-handed that ended up being the game winner. Credit Deryk Engelland who got the puck, kept his head up and made a great pass up to Staal. As has become his habit, Staal beat the defensemen and used his reach to deke the goalie out. 3-1 Pens.
Early in the 3rd period, Martin Skoula scored his first career goal as a Penguin, shooting a puck from the point past the screen of Mike Rupp into the net. Teemu Selanne got a goal late in the game to bring the Ducks within two goals but Cooke put the icing on the cake with an empty netter for a 5-2
- Down their top four defensemen (in terms of minutes played) the Penguins needed and got contributions from everyone. Engelland, as mentioned, made a great pass to make the game-winner possible and also played phyiscal with five hits. Nate Guenin looked confident and comfortable in his NHL season debut, also credited with five hits. Mark Eaton carried the load, playing a lot of the power-play in route to a game-high 27:09 of ice-time. Skoula, as mentioned above, got his first goal. Ben Lovejoy got an assist and generally played well.
- Jay McKee, the final member of tonight's defensive corps, was his usual shot-blocking self; getting 5 on the night. The last one appeared to sting him, but he still took shifts deep into the 3rd period. Hopefully it wasn't enough to cause an injury,
- Guenin and Engelland I think deserve a little more recognition for their efforts. Neither one of them tried to be a guy like Sergei Gonchar or Alex Goligoski -- they played within themselves. But they played very well. Several little plays showed they made good decisions and executed them well all night long.
- Keeping on the theme of team contributions: every Penguin who took more than one faceoff was better than 50% in the circle; led by rookie Mark Letestu who won 75% of his eight draws.
- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin absolutely unleashed some rockets on the power-play with slapshots. Judging from those, I'd say about all systems are go for those two. Again though, Crosby got the PP assist but Geno was point-less. This win wasn't about them.
- It was about guys like Staal and Cooke. 2/3 of the third line went a combined 3 goals, 1 assist and +5, 5 shots on goal, 6 hits.
- Several more "ohh man" moments by Chris Bourque, who didn't win anyone to his bandwagon tonight; including missing another wide-open net.
- For Anaheim, they just don't look like they have it all together. Given the talent on their roster, and the fact they won the Cup just over 2 years ago, it's hard to believe they're in last place in the entire Western Conference. Then you see some of the turnovers they make in the game, the careless penalties they take and it sets in a little. They have some pieces, but it's not coming together correctly.
The biggest thing to take away from this game was the team effort. Marc-Andre Fleury got 23 of 25 shots, only eluded by a breakaway and late game goal. The patchwork, mainly minor-league level defense held up very well and they all played well to a man. Grinders showed up on the score sheet and skated hard all around.
More than that, they played a style Dan Bylsma had to like; a lot of puck possesion and controlling the pace of the game. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has a saying that goes something like "the standard of expectation hasn't changed" when it comes to replacements pressed into duty due to injuries. That was the case tonight. Obviously it's impossible to replace the skill of guys like Gonchar, Goligoski and Kris Letang on the blueline, but everyone that got a jersey did his job, and did it well. That's all you can ask.
The Penguins now have a two day break before they embark on seven games in 11 days to close out the month of November, starting off with a three game roadie. The games are about to come but hopefully reinforcements will be trickling in. But the standards of expectation will not, and cannot change. Whoever plays has to produce, and they have to perform exactly like they did tonight.