PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 22: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save in front of the goal during the game against the Nashville Predators on March 22, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
And the scary thing is, although it's going well, it doesn't even seem like they're hitting on all cylinders yet. But results are results and you can't do much better than the Pens are lately.
Right off the bat, 1:23 into the game Evgeni Malkin streaked down the left side and unleashed a slapper on Pekka Rinne. Somehow the all-world goalie misplayed the puck when it hit the top of his glove and it went in the net. 1-0 Pens and we're off to the races.
Less than three minutes later Kris Letang took a slapper from the point that Pascal Dupuis tipped in the net for his career high 22nd goal of the year. The Pens were feelin' it, and Rinne and the Preds were on the ropes from a blow they'd never recover from.
All of this, before the first television timeout.
In the second period, if Nashville tried any adjustments it didn't take- about a minute in James Neal used brute force to get the puck down low and gifted a pass for Matt Cooke who made no mistakes for his 17th of the year.
Tack on another Chris Kunitz goal for the Pens a few minutes later to make it 4-0 and it was all over but the time on the clock. Newly returned Alex Radulov made his impact felt with a sharp shot on a rebound that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 4-1, but Malkin would beat Rinne with another slapper in the 3rd to finalize the score at 5-1.
Game. Set. Match. Thanks for coming out.
Some more thoughts on the game:
-Congrats to Fleury for getting to be the first goalie to 40 wins over his competior Rinne, who's stuck on 39 for now. Fleury didn't have to be as busy, but he was sharper when it counted. We'll take it.
-Pretty big scare for the Pens when Kris Letang went knee-to-knee accidentally with an advancing Predator. Letang was in some pain and even went down the runway to the locker-room, but he didn't miss a shift, playing 23:50 and recording two assist.
-4 assists and a plus 4 in the books for James Neal. Looks like the Rifleman can dish it a little too, huh?
-No mention on the broadcast, but Matt Niskanen didn't play past the middle of the game, and he didn't take a penalty or see a goal go in against so we'll wait to see his update. Nisky's been good this year, so hopefully it's not bad. Until then, Ben Lovejoy will be called upon to take a jersey and play on the 3rd pair.
-Speaking of pair, what a pair of hits by Deryk Engelland and Brooks Orpik on the blueline. Just to let 'em know- the Pens are good on offense, but you're gonna pay the price if you don't have your head on a swivel.
-2 more goals and 10 shots on net for Malkin in another big night to help his Art Ross and MVP qualifications. Pretty hard to argue he's not worthy of both at this point.
-No points at all for Sidney Crosby, who was pretty much a non-factor in the game. But he did play a return-high 19:02, and well, he's still Sidney Crosby. So we'll take it
-Did Eric Tangradi play or not play? Could you notice? Answer is, he was a healthy scratch in favor of Richard Park. And here, we'll take a hard working veteran any day of the week.
So in a workman-like manner, that is that. Nashville came to town, and they were promptly humbled. The scorers scored, the checkers checked, the goaltender saved, the defenders defended. Pittsburgh wins, fairly easily and looks ahead to the next challenge.