It was a night of milestones, as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-2, clinched at least the #2 seed in the East by winning the Metropolitan Division and saw head coach Dan Bylsma become the quickest coach to win 250 games.
Defenseman Paul Martin played his first game since the Olympics and looked steady and calm as ever, showing no ill-effects from his broken hand. Martin played a game high 23:46 and scored what ended up being the game-winning power play goal in the third period off a nice pass from James Neal."[Martin]'s unbelievable," Craig Adams said to Root Sports' Bob Errey after the game. "The way he plays, if there's anyone who can come back and not miss a beat, it's him."
Adams was no slouch himself, pitching in with a rare but important goal late in the second period to tie the game at 2-2.
Brian Gibbons would provide an insurance goal late in the third period, scoring his first goal since February 7th.
Sidney Crosby had two assists on the night to push his lead in the league in scoring to 102 points. Beau Bennett, who debuted on the top line, scored the game's opening goal just after a power play expired on a Crosby pass.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Martin and Bennett scored their 3rd goals of the season (in injury shortened years). Adams and Gibbons each recorded their 5th goals of the campaign. Nice to get some new faces and secondary options putting rubber in the net.
- The Rob Scuderi / Robert Bortuzzo pairing looked shaky, especially on the first goal against. Not so sure that's the option the Pens are looking for, but it may be one they're stuck with for a while.
- Jayson Megna and Brandon Sutter also had a moment of discombobulation on the second goal against. What seemed like it could be parts of a promising 3rd line got picked apart pretty easily in that instant, we'll see if they give it more time to develop or shuffle the cards again.
- Jussi Jokinen got rocked by a clean check from Dustin Byfuglien and was flexing his wrist on the bench. Worth watching to see if he'll be 100% down the stretch.
- Tanner Glass got away with one against his old team- he cleared the puck on the penalty kill from his own zone straight over the glass, but luckily the refs didn't see it like that and didn't put the Pens down two men. Bullet: dodged.
- Speaking of ineffective forwards facing their old teams, Eric Tangradi had a quiet game too (but then again what other types of games does he have). A game-low 7:00 played, no shots, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot is all the scoresheet had for him.
- Gibbons' goal was the result of a giveaway by rookie Jacob Trouba, who like fellow 2012 draft pick Olli Maatta has had a solid overall rookie season. But Trouba got rung up for 6 giveaways officially tonight (the Jets only had 19 total as a team). Very high number there, but Trouba did lead his team with 23:23 played. He's gonna be a good one for a long time.
- Both the Jets and Penguins average taking over 30 shots on goal per game each. In this game there was only 36 total shots (21 by Pittsburgh, 16 for Winnipeg). A lot of neutral zone jockeying and pucks thrown in the corner, not so many pucks being shot on target. Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't really tested and didn't have to make any huge saves, but he minded the fort well enough.
With that, the Penguins likely have played their final game in Canada in the 2013-14 season (barring a playoff matchup against Montreal or even Toronto if they fluke into it). The Pens extend their record to 6-2-0 against Winnipeg, since they moved back to the true north at the expense of Atlanta. Hopefully Jokinen isn't going to be hobbled by his wrist and we can all move on down the road.
Oh, and thanks to this win (coupled with an unnecessary Philadelphia loss), Pittsburgh has clinched the first ever Metropolitan Division, officially. They're locked into playing a wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs, which will likely be the #1 wild-card, since Boston has separated themselves from the pack. That wild-card seems most likely to be filled by Philly, Detroit or Columbus at this point, but the picture is changing seemingly every day. Either way, the Pens are back-to-back division champs for only the second time in franchise history (1993-94). So congrats and we'll hope this is far from the only achievement we'll see them celebrate this spring.