After being called out by defensive veteran Rob Scuderi for the team's defensive lapses and casual attitude following a 4-3 OT loss in Edmonton, the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back with a respectable effort and a 2-1 win in Calgary. Being the last game in a back-to-back situation, it wasn't a high-energy game but it was a successful one.
A lot of credit has to go to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (27 saves on 28 shots) and the penalty killers went 5 for 5 (over a course of 8:05 of game-time) including a 5-minute major by Robert Bortuzzo. The difficulties continued when Brian Gibbons missed most of the game with a lower-body injury, Olli Maatta missed a few shifts in the second period and Deryk Engelland took the brunt of a fight and was kept out for a while as well. A wrist injury kept Joe Vitale out of the game.
Those difficulties aside, the healthy Penguins did what it took to pull out a road win. Chris Kunitz opened the scoring in the first period after a nice forechecking effort by Zach Sill eventually saw the puck wind up with Bortuzzo on the blueline. Kunitz received a pass, and from a weird angle snapped a high shot by goalie Reto Berra, who did not look square to the shot.
Then in the second period Matt Niskanen scored the eventual game winner (his 5th GWG of the season on six goals) when he got the puck deep in the blueline and wheeled back to the point, finding a lane to sneak a shot in. Calgary would score their first team goal since the 7th grade picnic in the third when Mikael Backlund capped a good game by beating Fleury.
A win is a win is a win, even if it's against a bottom team that's been struggling. It's good to end the road trip on a high note. A couple more thoughts on the game:
- Only the ninth game all season that Sidney Crosby was held off the scoresheet, and it wasn't for a lack of chances. Crosby pulled the trigger on two shots on separate two-on-one chances, one beat Berra only to ring off the post. Crosby did have 4 takeaways and won 68% of his 19 faceoffs and his 21:21 TOI led all Pens forwards.
- Of the 8:05 that Pittsburgh played short-handed, four players killed 3:52+ of that time - Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, Brandon Sutter and Brooks Orpik. Scuderi, somewhat surprisingly, played less PK time (2:48) than Niskanen (3:05) and Deryk Engelland (2:51).
- The good: James Neal attempted 7 shots. The bad: 6 of them got blocked by Flames and only one ended up needing a save. Malkin attempted 7 shots on goal with getting 4 on Berra.
- Bortuzzo got the gate for a hit that leveled Flames captain Mark Giordano. Bortuzzo definitely left his feet, and from the replays I saw, it looked like the head was a principal point of contact. Giordano is also several inches shorter than the 6'4" Bortuzzo, so we'll see if the NHL thinks the match penalty he was assessed was enough or if it merits a suspension.
- Taylor Pyatt had the most ice time (13:58) in his short Pens career and broke a two-game streak of taking a minor penalty and being on the ice for a goal against, so that's positive! But Pyatt hasn't demonstrated a lot of spark yet to show that he should be a regular in the lineup whenever (or if ever) the forward group returns to health.
- Fleury made the save of the game when he used the back of his head to make a stop. OK, so maybe that was a little lucky, but MAF got tangled up and spun around and found away to keep it out of the net, so credit him for that. A well deserved first star of the game for the Pens starting netminder.
And now, out of the West coast and back to where the games start at 7:00 eastern time. The Pens get a few days off before their next game, when the Washington Capitals come to town on Wednesday.