The Pittsburgh Penguins continued their western road trip tonight in Calgary and found great results thanks to another sharp start. It started 5:46 into the game, Chris Kunitz intercepted a Mark Giordano errant pass and Kunitz kept it in the offensive zone and chipped it up to Sidney Crosby. Crosby quickly moved the puck to his right for David Perron to get a great look at the net. Perron wasted no time snapping a shot by Jonas Hiller for his 8th goal as a Penguin in just his 14th game.
Then late in the first period Brandon Sutter won an offensive zone faceoff and floated towards the net. Rob Scuderi tossed a pass over to his newly reunited pal Simon Despres who put a shot-pass right on Sutter's backhand that deflected into the net. 2-0 Pens heading into the first.
Sidney Crosby would score his first goal in seven games shortly after the Pens killed a delay of game penalty to Robert Bortuzzo. Chris Kunitz played a good puck in and Crosby was able to drive to the net and get his stick on the puck for his 16th goal of the season to make it 3-0.
In the third, seemingly for s's and g's, Crosby broke in towards the net again, blowing by Giordano and beating Hiller, ending his night. Wasn't all his fault but he had no answers. Not a great night for Giordano, who was a -3 on the night on the ice for all three goals the Pens top line scored. For a guy having such a terrific year, this one is going to leave a mark, at least in perception.
From there on out the game was pretty quiet and the Pens skated on down the road to a second win in as many games on this west coast swing. They go for the sweep tomorrow night at 10 eastern in Van city.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Throwback game for Crosby. Looked like his old self for the first time in a long time. Going to the net. Plenty of shot attempts (6). 2 goals. 1 assist. Now only 2 games back on the Art Ross race, despite all the bumps, mumps and missed games. Great time to be firing up.
- It's a good thing I'm not the Penguins GM, because my price point for the Perron contract extension would be really, really high. What a great fit for this team.
- Chemistry on the first line seems to be growing by the game. For all the talk the Kunitz is unhappy/slowing down/stinks, he pretty much made the first 2 goals happen for that line tonight. Good for him and hopefully a sign of things to come. Even strength production has been rare for him to find of late.
- Kris Letang left the game early in the second period after a puck deflected up into his face, leaving a trail of blood behind him. He would return to the game near the end of the period, sporting a nasty cut on his chin and jaw. After all, if a stroke can't keep him out, what's a stray piece of frozen rubber to the face?
- Not to be outdone, Letang's frequent partner Paul Martin was bloodied on the nose by an errant stick from David Jones, drawing a 4 minute power play for the Pens that was largely disjointed and ugly. Martin would return for the 3rd period with a nasty chunk out of his nose. Anyone still want to be a defenseman?
- Much like last game in Edmonton, the Pens just dominated in shots. They were 18-7 mid-way through the 2nd period after Pittsburgh got the first 7 shots of the second period. Jump on a team early, take a commanding lead and coast to a win. Classic Penguins hockey over the past 7 or 9 years..
- Evgeni Malkin took a minor penalty for high-sticking, his first penalty in his last 14 games (dating back too December 22nd for him). Gotta be some kind of personal record.
- Speaking of, the heralded rookie Johnny Gaudreau played his 52 NHL game this season and still has 0 PIMs. With his 39 points added on, he has to be a leading contender for the Lady Byng trophy for most gentlemanly player.
- Interesting stat via Root Sports: Fleury has 8 shutouts on the year now (a new team record!), and he's 6-0-1 now in the game AFTER the shutout. Nice way to keep it up. Fleury made a stop with about 13:43 left on Jiri Hudler from point blank that stole the show (even though the score was, you know, 4-0). And a nice job by Patric Hornqvist to get allll the way back on D and defend the shot so Hudler couldn't get all of it.
- All that great stuff said, Fleury has had to be pulled the last 2 times he's played both legs of a back-to-back situation. MAF is in a groove with 2 straight shutouts, but Mike Johnston needs to stick to the plan. Play the backup tomorrow, keep Fleury fresh and on point for later.
Comment of the day
Credit where it's due, BBnG put this as the very first comment this morning on Natasha's Pens Points, check out his first prediction.