The Penguins not only played in the west tonight, they played a "Western Conference" style game against a team that came into the night as a division leader. You know the type: a tight-checking, earn every inch of real estate tough 3-1 game, that featured some great goaltending.
And there was no greater performance in the game than that of Marc-Andre Fleury. MAF got dinged up early last time out, but rebounded once again with a 36 save on 37 shot effort. He was sharp early and up for about everything the Calgary Flames were throwing his way.
Sidney Crosby got the scoring started less than four minutes into the game, driving around Jay Bouwmeester (like he did so many times when "JayBo" was a Florida Panther) and depositing the puck by Miikka Kiprusoff. Calgary would tie things up at 1 when Mark Giordano finished a mad scramble on a Flames power play and beat Fleury. The Pens would answer right back a minute later with a rare PP goal of their own when Bill Guerin deflected a Sergei Gonchar shot for the eventual game winner. Jordan Staal would dig a puck out from behind the net and feed Tyler Kennedy for the game's final goal at 18:20 of the 3rd period to salt the win away.
The Pens played an almost perfect road game against an unfimiliar opponent. They took an early lead, got some great goaltending, were pretty good on the PK (4 for 5) and didn't fall behind on the scoreboard. Classic stuff for a team looking to get back to their winning ways.
- If you didn't know about Stephane Auger and all the controversy earlier, you probably wouldn't have noticed anything about the officiating tonight. One odd thing was the swing of penalties: the Flames got three of the first four PPs and then Pittsburgh went on a PP streak with 4 straight calls in the 2nd period. Probably had more to do with the events of the gameplay than anything else.
- Crosby's career high in goals is 39 (from his rookie season, believe it or not). Seems likely that's about to fall, as Sid got his 30th goal of the season in just his 47th game tonight.
- It'll show that Evgeni Malkin didn't show up on the scoresheet, but he did a lot right. He was driving to the net with gusto, he fired 7 total shots on net (3 on target, 2 blocked, 2 missed the net). It's bound to come, it's just bound to come.
- The Pens PP is showing signs of life. Though they only got 1 goal in about 8 minutes of action, encouragingly there's a lot of movement. Malkin's back to his customary half-wall position, Crosby's playing a little lower, Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski are smartly manning the points. There's movement among the whole unit, not just whoever's got the puck.
- Eric Godard "did his thing": another minor penalty early, then actually got in a fight and was never heard from again. Godard ended up playing only 4 real shifts and got 2:38 in ice-time. Uhh, thanks for coming out?
- Nice to see Tyler Kennedy crack himself back on the scoreboard with his insurance goal late. Staal's work made the play, but you have to have a finish and TK is a fine 3rd line finisher. Never afraid to pull the trigger, Kennedy had 4 shots on goal.
- Ben Lovejoy only skated 11:24 and at times looked a little uneven, but he ended up being a +2 on a night when the best you could be was a +2. For rookie defensemen (or any d-man really) that's all you can ask for, final performance wise.
- John Curry, and not Brent Johnson dressed as the backup goalie. Johnson is nursing some sort of undisclosed injury, thought to be minor. But if Johnny couldn't dress tonight, how could he play tomorrow? Will the Pens turn to Curry (and all 3 of his NHL games) or go back to Fleury tomorrow against Edmonton? My money is on the latter.
- In further injury news: Brooks Orpik skated today (not in pads) and doesn't seem likely to play tomorrow. But I'm no doctor, so who knows. Saturday, or better next week is looking like a more realistic possibility for him back in the lineup.
When you're far from home, sometimes it's best to just get the 2 points and get out without suffering any injuries or generating any controversies. The Pens had replay-gate and Gonchar/Clutterbuck in the two of the past three games, so it's almost a relief to get the old-fashioned win and move it on.
Finally, after the jump a pic that must be seen. Mr. Crosby receives what appears to be a very serious inquiry. And also the new fangled "comment of the night".
[Pic by GW40]
Which inspired the comment of the night
"I bet her Hooking is a bit different than he’d expect." -- tehchico