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Pens / Flames recap: Malkin, Letang, Fleury power Pens past Calgary

Without Sidney Crosby the Penguins get big performances from their other 3 core players (Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury) to push past the Calgary Flames by the score of 3-1.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins were without Sidney Crosby (held out for "precautionary reasons") but they were still able to get a quick start, with Blake Comeau taking a pass from Evgeni Malkin, skating in the zone on a two-on-one and wristing a shot by "My name is" Jonas Hiller just 48 seconds into the game.

The Pens would follow that up less than four minutes later with Kris Letang deflecting a Simon Despres blast in to make it 2-0 just 4:48 into the game and it appeared the Penguins would be off to the races. The Flames played last night in Buffalo and didn't look like they were awake.

And yet, they did. Jiri Hudler got fortunate his pass skipped off the inside of the linesman's skate and hopped perfectly to Markus Granlund. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped the first shot but the rebound was there for Johnny Gaudreau and Johnny Football err Hockey made no mistakes to make it 2-1.

From there, nothing but fruitless power plays for both sides, and a couple of really good saves by Hiller to keep his team within striking distance.

They wouldn't be able to strike though, late in the third Kris Letang won a wall battle and flicked a puck up to Malkin. Malkin handed it to Steve Downie who made a very nice cross-ice pass to Rob Klinkhammer. Klinkhammer actually put a really nice shot on, he was moving to the left but shot back across his body to the right and it beat the goalie who had to move in the opposite direction.

That would be your ball game. Pens win 3-1.

A few more thoughts on the game:

  • Simon Despres will probably be hearing from the league. He delivered a high, crushing hit on Ladislav Smid in the second period. Even though it was two big men skating into the corner, Despres seemed to get his arm/elbow up and the head was "the principal point of contact" (league loves that term) even though it probably wasn't the intention. There was no penalty on the play, but there was no penalty when Robert Bortuzzo smashed Jaromir Jagr late either... so we'll see. Smid also left the game and wouldn't return, which won't bode well. But, objectively, Despres might get the old "first-timer two-game suspension" for that one.
  • What did get penalized was Jayson Megna. Looked like he was playing bingo out there with a roughing in the first period, a tripping and high sticking in the second and another tripping early in the third period. That would be the evening for Mr. Megna as he got benched for the remainder of the third period.
  • Kudos Root Sports for pointing out that Evgeni Malkin has 1.35 career points/game in the 106 games without Crosby. Add 2 more tonight. Malkin raises his game when he has to be the man.
  • Letang scored a goal on 5 shot attempts, started another (but didn't get credit for an assist) and played 26:17 after missing 5 games with a groin injury. Sensational effort by #58, looked like he didn't miss a beat when he really did.
  • Patric Hornqvist looked rustier in his first game back, but he did have 9 shot attempts in 18:41 played, and as is his custom was in and around the crease all game long. A welcome sight to have him back.
  • Two games ago Zach Sill got kicked out of the game on his first shift after a big (but pretty clean) hit. This game in his first shift, just 0:18 into it, Sill was back-checking hard to his net, lost his footing and slid into the boards shoulder/side first at pretty good speed. He would leave the game immediately and didn't return. We poke fun at his usefulness but it's never good to see a guy get hurt, hopefully it doesn't prove to be too bad.
  • The power play was 0 for 5 and looked really out of sync. But that's totally understandable given that Crosby was out, and Letang/Hornqvist were back in. Consistency and continuity are huge for an elite PP and it seems like every few games the #1 unit is switching up due to injuries/returns. Oh well, that's life.
  • Luckily though, the PK was just as good as the PP was bad, going 5 for 5. Great work by that unit, once again.
  • Old friend Deryk Engelland returned to town and had a very Deryk Engelland like stat-line on the night: 12:19 played, no shots, 1 giveaway. That was his official line and what $2.9 million bought Calgary tonight.
  • Possibly misleading advanced stat: the Pens looked great with a 54-43 shot attempt advantage. However, the Pens only got 22 shots on goal with 16 blocked and 16 more missing the net. Calgary got a much higher percentage of shots on net, with 27 at Fleury, who made 26 saves. Just an observation if you see anyone point out Corsi stats from this game- the Pens were less than effective even though the numbers will show that they had a lot of attempts, they didn't really have a lot of good attempts.
  • Nice to see Klink score his first goal as a Penguin and pull on the crest of the logo, showing some pride in his new team. Can't put my finger on it, but something tells me he's going to score a big goal somewhere down the line for this team come playoff time.