The Pittsburgh Penguins were off to the races early against the Edmonton Oilers. That was meant literally when Brandon Sutter, while shorthanded 4:16 into the game, knocked a puck by Justin Schultz at the far blueline. Schultz almost couldn't have tried less to catch Sutter who zoomed in and tossed in another short-handed goal to make it 1-0.
Sutter would strike a few minutes later for his 15th goal of the season when Ben Scrivens most generously kicked out an unnecessarily big rebound after a pretty weak, routine shot from Steve Downie. Sutter collected it and tossed the puck in the net for only Downie's first assist in his last 25 games. Regardless, 2-0 Pens.
The party would continue later in the first with Sidney Crosby, from behind the net, finding ex-Oiler David Perron for a nice goal to make it 3-0. Crosby would strike himself with his 23rd goal of the season when he ripped a shot on the power play (honest!) to make it 4-0.
At that point the game was a laugher and Edmonton had no business looking like they even belonged sharing the same ice as the Pens. But hockey games last 60 minutes no matter what and the Oil showed some life on a PP of their own with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tossing a puck by Rob Scuderi and Anton Lander collecting that rebound from Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 4-1.
Edmonton would continue their comeback and make it 4-2 later in the period with Fleury not able to stop Jordan Eberle from scoring. Edmonton would continue their comeback effort and make it 4-3 when Fleury lost his stick and allowed a goal on a nice shot by Benoit Pouliot. Then, against all odds, Edmonton would tie when Derrick Pouliot skated the puck right up the middle, turned it over and hacked at it and basically put it in his own net, 10:04 into the 3rd period.
Just like that, the Penguins would have to put their foot back on the gas to earn the win. Maxim Lapierre made a really nice play to hold on to the puck and Downie jumped on the rebound to score the eventual game winner.
A little later Crosby made a great pass to Patric Hornqvist who rifled one by Bachman to make it 6-4 and salt away the win. No doubt about it.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- After making it 4-0, some score effects kicked in. The Pens probably could have done more to keep the proverbial foot on the gas, but all's well that ends well, right?
- 2 assists for Daniel Winnik on each of the Sutter goals. Even if they weren't the most instrumental for the goal, if that can form 2/3 of a successful, productive 3rd line, the Pens will be in really great shape going forward.
- But, where does that leave Beau Bennett? Bennett's now point-less in 11 games and without a goal in his last 18 games dating back to January 20th. If he doesn't find a way to increase his output, the coaches are going to have a good excuse to go back to dressing Craig Adams.
- Speaking of great shape, the first line was running like a charm with Perron scoring, Crosby scoring on the PP.
- Ian Cole decided to get in a fight, while Sidney Crosby had the puck and was bursting up the ice. Not ideal.
- The Oilers goalie change to Richard Bachman after the score was 4-0 seemed to stabilize them. They were no doubt aided by the fact that Crosby hit a post (then it hit the crossbar) on Bachmann on a puck that just didn't want to get in the net.
- It feels bad to single any one player out, but with a big lead no one gets as reckless, out of position and decides to make more high risk plays than Kris Letang . More is less.
- It's definitely not encouraging to give back a 4-0 lead, but it was really obvious the Pens took their foot off the gas too early. So they simply just put it right back on, earned the win and got out of the game with it. Not ideal, but hey. This game really wouldn't have been a huge positive if the Pens won 4-0, so it can't really be a big negative to blow the lead. Humans aren't robots, they got a great lead and got complacent, and to Edmonton's credit they didn't lay down and die. But at the end of the day, Pittsburgh did what they had to.
Game, set match. The Pens are off tomorrow before two weekend afternoon matinee games.