Four-Goal Second Period Powers Pens Past Flames to Win 5-3

Tyler Kennedy. Matt Niskanen. Craig Adams. Evgeni Malkin.

That's all you needed to know coming out of this game, as that exact order of names headlined a stellar second period of scoring for the Pens Saturday night in Calgary.

If James Neal's first-game success wasn't enough to put some worried minds at ease, then hopefully seeing Niskanen light the lamp in just his second of the season will help settle those leftover concerns - and on the power play no less.

Awesome as Malkin looked in Game 1 against the Canucks, you knew it was only a matter of time before he scored his first of the season. Nifty shootout moves aside, his power-play goal to close out the fourth of four goals in the second period was just a thing of beauty. Not only did it help Malkin (hopefully) get right back into the scoring groove after an offseason of rehab, but it also sent home the fourth power-play goal in two games and gave the Pens what we all hoped would be a sure-fire lead to claim two points by game's end.

I wouldn't go so far as to say Marc-Andre Fleury is struggling to start the season. After all, he picked up his second win in just as many games, which we all know is a drastic improvement from last October. But when you consider how many shots he faced against Calgary (20) and how many he stopped (17), there's at least comfort in knowing that there's room for improvement.

But instead of overthinking Fleury's play, let's instead credit a strong team effort. Sort of. Thanks to strong positional play, combined with intelligent physiclal play (ie. no stupid penalties - although Malkin was the lone exception Saturday night), the Flames were limited in the shots department. Of course, with the Pens dominating the second period the way they did, that will cut into any team's shot total. In that period alone Pittsburgh outshot Calgary 16-5. You have to think the team's prerogative at that point was to maintain the lead and not give up goals by staying overly aggressive.

For the most part, that game plan worked, but almost to a fault. Rene Bourque's notch around the midway point of the third period allowed Calgary to pull within the dreaded two-goal gap. With just under four minutes remaining it was Olli Jokinen who sent one home to trim the lead down to one. At that point it was just a matter of watching the clock tick down. Give the Flames another five minutes of ice time and who knows where this one goes. Luckily it ended sooner rather than later, allowing the Pens to squeak out of Calgary with another two-point finish after Jordan Staal picked up his first of the year on an empty netter. While we still have no idea if/when Sidney Crosby is due back in the Pittsburgh lineup, the team's ability to gut it out at least bodes well for a Crosby-less team. Doing it on an early-season West Coast road trip only helps.

Pens are back at it Sunday at 9 ET when they take on the Oilers, the last of their three-game road trip. Closing out the first week with three wins on the road would be huge. No guarantees yet, but it's probably a safe bet to expect Brent Johnson getting the start against Edmonton.

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