The Pittsburgh Penguins penalty kill was off to a horrible start in 2014-15, so giving up 7 power play chances to the New York Islanders probably wasn't a good idea.
Luckily though, the Pens turned it around, killing off all seven chances with increased aggressiveness in the neutral zone and 9 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury.
On the other side of the special teams equation, the Pens scorching hot, can't-possibly-keep-this-up power play ended up keeping it up- scoring two power play goals off the stick of Evgeni Malkin (one that Patric Hornqvist tipped) to provide enough offense to end up winning the game. Hornqvist would tack on an empty net goal to finish off the scoring.
The game was an interesting clash- the new look Islanders had added veterans like Nikolai Kulemin, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak in the off-season. Halak, the nemesis of the 2010 playoffs when he was with Montreal, was showing flashes of his old self, stopping all 16 shots the Pens threw at him in the first period.
But their skill would take over in the second period, down 1-0 after a Thomas Hickey goal when in under a minute Malkin launched his two separate shots that ended up in the net. From there, the PK and defense would buckle down and keep the Isles from scoring.
A couple more thoughts on the game:
- The PK'ing turnaround was a team effort. Marcel Goc and Brandon Sutter were effective in winning faceoffs. The defensemen were reliable in clearing the puck out of the zone when they got it on their sticks. The forwards did a good job confounding and delaying NYI in the neutral zone to prevent clean setups. The defense did a great job with sticks in lanes and positionally when they did get setup. The goalie made the saves when all else failed.
- Steve Downie had his first real Steve Downie moment in a Penguin jersey early in the third period. Downie lost the puck in the offensive zone and immediately targeted in like a missile to make a hit on Frans Nielson. Hamonic saw this, naturally objected to the charge that Downie had and the two fought. Hamonic though picked up the extra penalty for instigating and was kicked out on the misconduct, leaving NYI without one of their best defensemen for the last 15 minutes of the game. Sometimes when Downie plays with fire he doesn't get burned...
- Hornqvist had 6 shots on goal in the first period and finished the game with 12, just two shy of the franchise record for shots in a game. It was appropriate he had the easy empty netter to close out the game. Hornqvist now has 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in 4 games as a Penguin, looking like a total stud.
- The Penguins ended up winning the blocked shot battle 17-11, probably by virtue of being short-handed a lot more (10:48) than the Isles (5:49). Six different forwards officially blocked a shot, including Malkin and Hornqvist.
- Out of that 10:48 the Pens were down a man, Olli Maatta was on the ice for 6:21 of it, all without giving up a goal, of course.
- 3rd game in a row that Despres has taken a minor penalty. He played 11:54 tonight, after just 11:29 last game vs. Dallas. Time to get Scott Harrington a game here?
- Fleury first star of the game with 34 stops on 35 saves. A nice bounceback after letting in the game losing goal with 2 seconds left last time out.
- How 'bout that Pascal Dupuis, right back in the game after last game's scary neck injury? It's good luck, to be sure, but also a tough customer right there.
Now the Pens get a three day break after playing 2 games in 3 days .They can use the rest and go into the little break on this happy note knowing they put the Islanders back in their place by showing just who the top team in the division still is.