Very rarely are teams interested in getting into a track meet with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and for good reason. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Kris Letang, few teams have the pure offensive horsepower to keep up with Pittsburgh in a fast and loose game that emphasizes skating, offensive breaks and rapid fire chances coming at both ends. The Winnipeg Jets are one team that is willing to engage in open, high-scoring games with the Pens and it almost paid off.
The Pens won a 6-5 game today, after starting slow and weathering a second period where the teams combined to score seven total goals. Pittsburgh would lock things down in the third, where Malkin scored to tie the game at five, and then Matt Niskanen scored the game's final goal off a faceoff win by Crosby.
It was a wild return for Malkin (2 goals, 1 assist) and Kris Letang (1 assist, 24:31 played) as both played their first game back from injuries. The Pens needed their skill for this type of game and were lucky enough to have them not miss a beat on their return to notch a 12th straight win on home ice.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- Hard to fault Marc-Andre Fleury for allowing five goals on this day. The team was playing fast and loose in front of him. Sometimes they were making wise decisions and generating scoring chances, other times it was giving up odd-man breaks to the likes of Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler.
- 19 of the Pens 39 shots on goal were from the Neal / Malkin / Jussi Jokinen line, who also combined for 5 goals, 3 assists. It goes without saying that they were the most dynamic and dangerous line on the ice all game long.
- Sidney Crosby failed to scored on a breakaway, was awarded a penalty shot and failed to score on that too. He ended up with an assist on the night and sort of got a tough luck no assist on the GWG that he set in motion, but for once the Pens didn't need him to carry the load offensively.
- Good night in the faceoff circle, with Pittsburgh winning 56% of the 57 faceoffs. And for some games that have had 80-90+ faceoffs in a game, it really says something in a game with 11 goals and 7 penalties to have one of the fewer faceoffs in a game. Especially one that featured a combined 73 shots on goal. That may go to show just how wide open and end-to-end of a game that this was.
Now the Pens are off to Western Canada for a three game and week-long swing. It's always a big deal for the media and fans out there to get a glimpse of Crosby and the boys, so we'll see if everyone is fired up to hit the road and keep on the winning ways.