In a low-shot, low-event game, the Pittsburgh Penguins took over against the Anaheim Ducks in a goal-fueled second period. Blake Comeau started the party with a long-range slap shot that eluded Frederik Andersen for his 15th goal of the season.
Just two minutes later, Sidney Crosby won a faceoff and David Perron won the puck deep in the zone, popping a pass over to Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist was at an angle, in Mario Lemieux territory as a right-hand shot behind the net, whipping the puck off the goalie and in the net to make it 2-0 Pittsburgh.
Late in the period, just seconds after a Simon Despres penalty expired (shocking, eh?), Ian Cole fired a shot on net that Hornqvist expertly tipped past Andersen for his 21st of the season and a 3-0 Penguin lead.
Early in the third the Pens would stretch the lead to 4-0 when Chris Kunitz fired a pass from behind the net out to Evgeni Malkin all alone in the slot. The puck would trickle in behind Andersen to make it 4-0. The Ducks would answer with a trickle-in goal of their own later in the third with new-Duck and old-Penguin killer Tomas Fleischmann shooting a puck off the top of the glove of Thomas Greiss and into the net.
Not wanting to miss out on the Penguin killing, Corey Perry scored with 6:52 remaining to make it 4-2 Pens.
That would be as close as the Ducks got though, with Sidney Crosby earning an empty net goal after fighting through a check (and drawing a penalty) in a failed effort, before getting the job done and sealing the deal with 10 seconds left.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Malkin scored his 7th goal in the last 7 games and tacked on an assist to tie the league leaders in scoring with 67 on the season. Malkin and the Pens have 2 more games in hand on the others, so assuming health, there's a great chance for Malkin or Crosby to win the scoring title. Crosby also had 2 points tonight to bring him up to 66 on the season.
- Despres with 6 hits (including some feisty play on Crosby) but was on the ice for 3 Penguins goals, including the one following a slashing penalty. All apologies to the aggrieved Simon Despres Pittsburgh-based fan club.
- Ben Lovejoy, in his return to Anaheim, played 15:45, had 3 shot attempts, 3 hits, 1 giveaway and 1 blocked shot. What the stats didn't capture was an even, smart game.
- Nice to see Cole get his first point as a Penguin. He's still being used in a sheltered role, and played the fewest minutes of any Penguins defenseman but he played well.
- Craig Adams got a spot in the lineup over Steve Downie and did not play well, ending up a -1 and not really adding a lot of positives.
- On the plus side though, the Downie scratch meant Beau Bennett playing 3rd line minutes with Daniel Winnik and Brandon Sutter. That might be a line worth further exploring for the future.
- Derrick Pouliot had some great skating to create the space for Comeau to score the game's first goal. It was only the 3rd assist in Pouliot's 23rd NHL game. Here's guessing he's going to get a lot more than 3 assists in his next 23 games.
- Nice wrinkle added in by the Pens top power play: using Pouliot with Kris Letang on the points. The team doesn't often use 2 defensemen up top, but given Anaheim's speed and skill up top for killing penalties (namely Andrew Cogliano, Jakob Silfverberg, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf) better to not put Malkin in a place where he might be exposed as a liability.
- Poor Greiss - getting a big lead and then the team sitting back and him having to battle hard in the 3rd periods have seemed to be an ongoing trend for him this season. But he always seems to do enough to hang on to improve his record to 8-3-3 on the year. And stopping 27 of 29 shots isn't anything to sneeze at.
- Maybe we're too hyper-sensitive to everything Sidney Crosby but he was shaking his hand again on multiple occasions after taking errant sticks to the glove. Hopefully it's nothing, but after a March injury last year to the hand area we can never be too certain.....He finished the game and looked pretty good fighting off checks and scoring the empty net goal though.
The Pens get a win against the current top team in the league, so that's always a good thing. But they won't have long to relish in it, as they go down the road to play the LA Kings tomorrow night to meet a rested opponent that has been very hot of late.