The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't register a shot on goal into well into the first period and got lucky that their only sharp player early was their goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury was great stopping 28/30 shots tonight, including the first 11 shots he saw to hold the Pens in the game until they could get their offense going.
And it came in an unlikely way- Brandon Sutter on the penalty kill. Sutter has generated a few chances lately with his speed on the PK, and tonight was no difference when he raced around Victor Hedman and burst away alone on Ben Bishop. The hard rising shot hit Bishop's stick in such a way that it dropped right in the net. It would be the 5th and last shot Bishop saw, who left the game after the first period with some sort of undisclosed injury.
The Pens lead would only last 25 seconds. With Tampa still on their power play, rookie Jonathan Drouin collected a rebound from right in front and steered it in for his 2nd goal of the season to tie the score at 1 after 1 period.
Pittsburgh would pounce with a goal early and late in the second period and add a third straight in the third to ultimately score the game's separating goals. Twogoals were NHL firsts, too, which is always fun. First Bryan Rust scored a goal in just his second NHL game after Andrew Ebbett collected a mistake by new goalie Evgeni Nabokov making a pass to a seemingly unsuspecting Brian Boyle. Ebbett quickly got the puck to Rust who fired it accurately on net. Then Steve Downie scored the first Penguins power play goal in seemingly forever to push the lead to 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Next it was Brian Dumoulin 's turn for NHL career #1 goal with a shot from the outside after a nice play by Downie to corral the puck behind the net, skate the long way around the back of the net and make a nice cross-ice pass out to the open man. Nikita Kucherov would end the scoring late in the game on a nice deke to bring Tampa within 2 goals, but they would get no closer.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Interesting to see the way coach Mike Johnston tweaks his lines during the game. Rust was playing well, and Rob Klinkhammer (skating on the Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau first line) wasn't, so that switch was made.
- Also Simon Despres left his usual partner, Rob Scuderi , and got to play more minutes paired with Christian Ehrhoff . Despres ended up with 17 ES minutes - more than top pairing of Paul Martin and Kris Letang tonight (there were some PP/PK reasons for that). Still, nice to see the team lean a little more on Despres tonight.
- The Pens were opportunistic tonight in scoring on Bishop late (when he might have already tweaked whatever it was) and then jumping on the veteran Nabokov with an early goal. Nice to see them take advantage when they could.
- Sutter played 22 minutes tonight and really was a driving force for the Pens these past three games that Sidney Crosby has been out with the mumps.
- A goal, an assist, 6 hits, 3 blocked shots, a tripping minor...Just another day at the office for Steve Downie.
- Can't say enough about the saves that Fleury made all night long, especially early. Without his great work the team wouldn't have been tied after the first period. They probably deserved to be losing after 20- they came out flat but Tampa couldn't take the lead.
- The Pens were very physical, 34 hits on the night, and were great on the forecheck. A ton of the hits came behind the Tampa net after dumping pucks in and having Pens forwards crushing TB defense to try and get pucks back. Not coincidentally, two goals directly came from pucks behind the net moved out to scoring positions.
- Valtteri Filppula will never get an easier assist in his whole life than the one he was credited for on the Kucherov goal. They're going to say that Filppula maybe sort of touched the puck when Comeau attempted to center to Letang, but the puck then hit Letang's skate and lands perfect for Kucherov. The Comeau pass was way behind Letang anyways.
Pens take 5 out of 6 points while Crosby was mumped up. Considering all their other injuries too, that's not too bad.