Make a list of the five most important Penguin skaters and it's probably Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and James Neal, though your preferred order might slighly varied. With four of the five out of the lineup on Saturday night, the Penguins leaned on their depth and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in order to get the win from the Florida Panthers.
The game started slow for the Pens, but late in the first period Letang received a Beau Bennett pass and flung a puck through traffic past Jacob Markstrom. Then, shortly before the period ended Bennett, Joe Vitale and Brenden Morrow drove to the net and the puck ended up in it before the net ended up off it's moorings to make it 2-0 Pens.
From there, the game was about in cruise control as much as a NHL regular season game can be. The Panthers got a goal back in a scramble when Scottie Upshall followed his own shot early in the second, but they couldn't beat Fleury again. Morrow capped off the scoring with an empty netter late. Game, set, match and the Florida swing ends in success.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- The late Malkin scratch made a rare opportunity for Joe Vitale, who got to play in only his second game since March 28th. Vitale played well, recording an assist, 5 hits, a blocked shot and won 13 of his 17 faceoffs. The Pens picked up Jussi Jokinen which has made Vitale a non-regular player, but on a night like tonight, Vitale showed the energy, hustle and was on the ice for a goal for. Everything you'd want in a 4th linecenter.
- The first multi-point night for Beau Bennett in the NHL, and even more could have came from it. Chris Kunitz found Bennett sneaking in, and BB took a really great shot that Markstrom made a tremendous save on. Bennett's play away from the puck is really impressive and one of the more surprising things watching him play. It's a treat and there's plenty more where that came from.
- The Penguins only took 22 shots on goal, and 10 came from defensemen. Minus so many big guns, Pittsburgh didn't get a lot of rubber to the net, but playing against a last place team, they didn't really have to tonight.
- And the reason they could was because Fleury and the defensive effort was superb. They killed off all 5:46 of Florida PP time (surrendering only 5 shots and winning 63% of the faceoffs while down a man) and kept things rolling along.
- And it makes sense. The Pens played to their strengths and down 2 MVP centers and a 40 goal scoring wing, they didn't and couldn't run and gun and they had to lean on guys like Brandon Sutter, Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Brenden Morrow. And that worked. The Pens did what they had to do and got in and out with the two points.