On a night where only an estimated 13,500 souls were able to shake off the snow and make it through the gates of the Mellon Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't offer the most inspired off efforts, but still managed to shrug off the challenge of the always pesky New York Islanders.
Chris Kunitz, in his second game back from surgery, opened the scoring halfway through the game when he took a nice drop pass from Evgeni Malkin and then drilled a shot by Dwayne Roloson. Before the second was over, Sergei Gonchar drilled a slapper that simultaneously clicked off of Malkin's skate and stick and into the net. There's no doubt it was a good goal and gave the Pens a two-goal lead heading into the last period.
Frans Nielson ended Marc-Andre Fleury's first shutout bid of the season when he got the Islanders only goal about halfway into the third period to make it an intense game. With about five minutes left to go, Kunitz scored his second goal of the game on a breakaway, setup by a nice saucer pass from Bill Guerin.
- The Islanders outshot the Pens 38-28 and out-attempted them 64-50. NYI showed great jump and were willing to throw the puck at the net when they had the chance. Usually a good strategy, but for the most part, Fleury was up to the challenge.
- Attention to detail is a key tenant in Dan Bylsma's system. Jordan Staal gets kicked out of the faceoff circle, and Tyler Kennedy loses the draw to Nielson. Bruno Gervais throws the puck to the front of the net and Kris Letang never picked up Nielson. That's a lapse in judgement by more than one player and the recipe for a quick goal against.
- Aside from that very visible instance, the Pens did great in the faceoff circle; winning 56% of the draws on the night, with Sidney Crosby (61% on 23 draws), Malkin (71% on 7 draws) and Staal (65% on 17 draws) leading the charge.
- TK showed great jump and stood up for himself, dropping the gloves against the little known Matt Martin. It was a losing fight, but the spark that Kennedy's been playing with lately.
- Two of the worst power plays in the league faced off tonight, and wouldn't you know the PK's went a combined 4 for 4. Pittsburgh only had one chance though, if it makes you feel any better.
- Guerin's sauce to Kunitz for the essential finisher was a beautiful play. Billy G is really, really good at throwing those little almost lateral passes out and this was just another example. He might not have the jump or all the finish anymore, but even at 39 Guerin shows some hands on why he's still in the league.
- Mark Eaton has taken some lumps from the fans with his play lately, but let's give him his due: 1 assist, 4 blocked shots in 20:47 played. And he had a plus/minus of +3 when that was the best possible mark you could have in this game.
- Conversely it looks like John Tavares has hit the rookie wall: 0 shots on goal, -2, a penalty taken, and a winner of 43% of his faceoffs. Doesn't look like he's gonna win the Calder Trophy unless he turns it around after the Olympic break.
The Penguins didn't look especially inspired and didn't have a very explosive game (save a few plays from Kunitz and Malkin). But they did enough to play consistently enough to get the win.