Still down key personnel, with the extreme unusual situation of the Boston manhunt virtually closing down the city on Friday, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go out and take care of business Saturday in a 3-2 win over the Bruins in an afternoon makeup game.
It's a character building win and experience for a team looking to continue into the playoffs with winning ways, which the Pens succeeded at as they took their sixth straight win and clinched the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs, important for home-ice advantage in later rounds if it comes to that.
For this game, it opened with a bang- the first period saw two fights and four other minor penalties, the only goal coming from Brad Marchand on the power play. The Pens would stick with it in the second with Jussi Jokinen (all he does is score) scoring a goal to tie the game before Kris Letang and Jarome Iginla wired PP goals to give the Pens a lead they'd never surrender.
From there it was the Tomas Vokoun show as the Pens backup stood talling making 38 saves on 40 shots (Tyler Seguin scored in the game's dying seconds) and earning the first star of the game.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- The injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal are testing the depth, and so far they're finding ways. Jokinen (2 PP assists), rookie Beau Bennett (1 assist and 5:28 PP time on ice) are getting more chances and they're making the most of it. Great signs.
- Down Crosby, the Pens lost the faceoff battle to Boston 60% to 40%. Brandon Sutter (50%) did more than OK in his always tough role of being the top defensive center, but rough outing for Jokinen (39%), Joe Vitale (38%), and Pascal Dupuis (33% on 12 draws). Dupuis, you can excuse rather easily, because center is not his normal position. Vitale and Jokinen should and have to be better on the draws.
- Of the Pens 24 shots on goal, half of them came off the sticks of Letang, Iginla or Chris Kunitz. When your best offensive players are out, you need to get pucks on net from the top guys left and that's the ideal list right there of the guys in the lineup.
- Tomas Vokoun is the safety blanket the Pens haven't had as a seriously capable backup goalie heading into the playoffs since...Ty Conklin in '08? And given total bodies of work, you have to be a lot more confident with Vokoun than Conks.