The Penguins came into this game without a lot on the line today, and were probably just hoping to make it out of Atlanta without any injuries. Yet they played their game for the first two periods, and with help from Brent Johnson and Lady Luck, they were able to beat the Thrashers, close out the regular season with 106 points, and head into the playoffs with some cherished momentum. Below are some links with relevant statistics:
Scoring began in the first period when Talbot and Godard each took ill advised penalties within about five seconds of one another, giving the Thrashers a very generous 5 on 3. Andrew Ladd scored not too long afterward as he put the puck past a helpless Johnson. The Thrashers failed to score on the remaining penalty, and the rest of the period was nothing to write home write about. It seemed like Mike Comrie generated the team's best chances, but as has been his story this season, he couldn't find a way to get the puck past the goal line.
The second period opened up with some sloppy play by the Penguins in their own end, courtesy of the reliably bad fourth line. However, Tyler Kennedy continued to show he's a serious player and notched the equalizer on the power play about six minutes in. With all the space he had on that shot, he made sure not to miss the back of the twine. Pens fans got to scream again when Talbot stopped on a dime and dished a sick feed to Pascal "No Hands" Dupuis who directed the puck past Chris Mason, giving the Pens their first lead of the day.
The period continued with more sloppy defensive play by the Penguins, but Brent Johnson refused to budge. The Fourth line then made up for their sloppiness and gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead. Godard, Rupp, Adams entered the zone with a lackadaisical 3 on 2, and Godard sent the initial shot well wide of the net. Fortunately for our boys, Mason overreacted and Rupp punched the rebound into the empty cage for his ninth of the year. After a furious rally by the Thrashers for about one minute, Letestu came up the ice, threw a terrible shot on net, and got rewarded with a goal due to the weak sauce that was Chris Mason. The period ended with the Penguins on the powerplay and the refs blowing a penalty shot call that went against Atlanta.
The third period began with a little of the same old same old, but then things got close when Orpik fumbled a puck and forced Johnson to make another critical save. A lot action by the Thrashers followed, with the Penguins not getting their first shot of the period until about 12 minutes in. Tangradi then took a stupid penalty and the Thrashers scored on the ensuing powerplay after Johnson was caught out of position due to a blocked shot in front of the net. The game ended on a comically appropriate note with Mike Comrie getting his first goal in a Penguins' uniform by knocking it into the empty net. Below are seven more thoughts:
- The Penguins have been without Crosby and Malkin for quite some time, but they were further hampered today since they were without Jordan Staal, James Neal, Paul Martin, and Chris Kunitz. This showed up in the scoresheet which displayed how the Penguins got smoked in terms of possession. They ultimately won this game because Johnson refused to budge.
- Big shout out to Max Talbot and Kris Letang for being the only two guys on the team to play all 82 games this season.
- What was with the ice today? Lots of guys were falling down all over the place, especially early on in the game. This peaked when Antropov did a big fail in trying to hop over the Atlanta bench.
- Though the penalty kill struggled today, they finished the season as the best penalty kill in the league. This is the first time the team has been able to do this, and it's a testament to the hard work of Tony Granato and our off-season acquisitions in Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.
- Had the Penguins and the Flyers put together these campaigns last year, the Penguins would have won the division because they of their greater number of wins. Unfortunately, we live in an Orwellian world in which we're told that a win isn't a win. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of Ken Holland, shootout wins don't count as wins this year. This isn't surprising because the Red Wings are not very good at the shootout, mainly because they don't have good goaltending. Yet Holland gamed the system and won, even though the premise of this change makes no sense, since winning a 4 on 4 overtime game is no less random or unpredictable then winning the shootout. But hey, it's the Red Wings.
- The Thrashers were laying hits that had no place in a game which meant nothing. If they were upset they aren't going to the playoffs for the umpteenth time, that's their problem. But their actions were an exercise in classlessness and thuggery by the boys in Blue.
- Finally, big props to everyone in the Penguins organization for working together to get the second highest number of points in franchise history with 106. This accomplishment is magnified by the fact that the Penguins were decimated with injuries to a degree not thought possible.
Thanks for reading everyone, and here's to a great season. I'm getting very excited for the playoffs, and I think even with all of our injuries, we have a shot at getting back to this moment. Let's go Pens!!