After an off-season of changes, the Pittsburgh Penguins benefited on opening night from some familiar faces coming through.
League MVP Sidney Crosby picked up right where he left off last regular season, scoring two goals and adding an assist on an over-matched John Gibson. Pascal Dupuis, fresh off knee surgery, added a goal and three assists. Sophomore sensation Olli Maatta tacked on three assists, all on beautiful passes.
Newcomer Patric Hornqvist started the year off with a goal and added an assist of his own. Blake Comeau scored a goal, and earned brownie points by standing up to a Duck for hitting Kris Letang.
Quite the night to remember. The Pens jumped up to a 3-0 lead, before the game turned later in the second period, with the score 3-1. Marc-Andre Fleury had his first ill-advised turnover behind the net, gifting Corey Perry a goal to make it 3-2. Shortly thereafter, on a delayed penalty to Hornqvist, Christian Ehrhoff conceded a penalty shot by hacking the wrists of Nate Thompson. Anaheim had a penalty shot and then an impending power play to potentially take the lead.
They'd only be half successful. Fleury stoned Thompson, but Perry would score on the ensuing power play to make it 3-3.
Suddenly, what looked like a fun opening game was all knotted up. Luckily for the Pens, Crosby would score a bit later, and Comeau would add another on the next shift to put momentum back in the Pens corner.
In the 3rd, Brandon Sutter scored a short-handed goal, and then with 3 minutes left in the game Perry completed a hat trick.
It was a wide-open, fun game. Mainly fun because the Penguins won. A few more thoughts on the game:
- Hornqvist could add a consistent right-handed linemate for Crosby for the first time since Bill Guerin, really. That should be a very good thing. Hornqvist had 4 shots on goal, 2 shots blocked and 4 shots that missed the net- including one that JUUUST trickled wide. Whether PH ends up with 87 or 71, he's going to get a lot of chances and he looks comfortable already.
- The biggest change from this year to last, at least noticeably tonight, was the defense. From Kris Letang to Simon Despres, the chains are off the defense. If they have the chance to jump up, they can and do. It seemed to create the opportunity to create more on this night.
- The Anaheim power play was 3 for 6. Brutal night by the Pens PK. They were hardly able to slow the mighty Ducks, especially Perry. It'll be worth watching to see if that carries on in the games that follow.
- Fleury also had his adventures. His passing still looks terrible, his decisions to play the puck are nothing but costly, but he also stood tall a few times with big saves, like on the penalty shot.
- Maatta and Dupuis had serious surgeries, were limited in preseason and combined for 1 goal and 6 assists. We all saw that coming, right?
- Evgeni Malkin, however, wasn't in that same boat. He only played 16:58 (including just 12:11 at even strength) and was a non factor- recording no shots on goal as a right winger. He did get an assist, but he also took 2 minor penalties and his (questionable) call of goalie interference cost Dupuis another goal. Geno will surely be much better in the future as he works into game shape. Luckily, the Pens didn't need him tonight.
- Every Penguins player (except Malkin and Rob Scuderi) was officially credited with a hit, led by Chris Kunitz 's 7. Grit and toughness!
- Zach Sill is as worthless as tits on a bull when it comes to being an NHL player, but man he can fight. Seemingly no one in the league can figure out that he's a southpaw. Everyone in the league knows he can't do anything with the puck.
- Top faceoff man on the night for either team? Nick Spaling, who won 9 of 13 (69%).
At the end, Anaheim benefited from a great power play, but as illustrated by a 39-29 shot advantage, Pittsburgh got the better of the play for much of the night. It helped that Gibson wasn't very sharp, but hey, a couple of those shots - especially by Crosby- were really well placed.
You can't win 'em all if you don't win the first one. Go Pens.
Your Pensburgh 3 players of the night (to be tracked all season)
1: DUPUIS (1g, 3a)
2. CROSBY (2g, 1a)
3. MAATTA (0g, 3a)