After scoring just 3 goals in the last 3 games, and facing one of the league's best goalies, things weren't looking up for the Penguins tonight coming in to face the Red Wings. But, of course, hockey is a funny and tough to predict game, so of course Pittsburgh pops in 6 goals and cruises to a big win, just as everyone suspected would happen...Right?
The Pens open the scoring with Ben Lovejoy tossing a pretty harmless point-shot on net...Harmless until Darren Helm deflected it dramatically from right in front of Petr Mrazek. A lucky break, but lucky things can happen when getting the puck on the net.
Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 19, 2016
The first lead would be short-lived, after Gustav Nyqvist made a great centering pass to Tomas Jurco, who found space in the middle of the ice and fired a nice shot by Marc-Andre Fleury.
jurco goal pic.twitter.com/0zBogG0JVf— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 19, 2016
But that lead would be taken back by Matt Cullen. Mrazek's unable to control the rebound of a Trevor Daley shot (courtesy of a Hornqvist tip of the puck) and that loose change kicked out right to Cullen who was able to bat it into the net.
The Red Wings would strike back on a nice play, strangely enough by defenseman Kyle Quincy who drove to the net, then tied up the stick of Lovejoy long enough for rookie sensation Dylan Larkin to swoop in and score his 19th goal of the season.
The kid is good! https://t.co/8ri3gc66bi— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) February 19, 2016
But hold the phone, the very next shift just 0:24 after the tying goal, Sidney Crosby finds Phil Kessel who scores a nice goal on the rush for the Pens.
Scott Wilson would give the Pens a 4-2 lead on the back of his 1st career NHL goal, but this one was all about Conor Sheary. Sheary advanced the puck through the zone, battled hard and made a great pass to Wilson.
unreal stuff here by sheary pic.twitter.com/HNav23QxrD— Chad....... (@MadChad412) February 19, 2016
Phil Kessel strikes again for his 2nd goal of the night, generated when Olli Maatta took a hard point-shot that eluded Mrazek, Kessel finds the rebound before the defenders and it's an easy finish for Phil, which would also finish Mrazek's night.
With 8:47 left, Detroit wouldn't go quietly into the night. Pavel Datsyuk basically skates the whole team, then the puck gets to Henrik Zetterberg who makes a sweet, sweet deke, pulls the puck backhand and with no angle at all somehow backhands the puck perfectly into the top of the net.
And hey, a little love for Fleury, because why not. This was when the game was 3-2, unreal coordination and athleticism to keep this out of the net. (Also, no clue how they could have let this goal stand considering the interference by Justin Abdelkader)
For it's 1... 2... 3 strikes you're out! pic.twitter.com/4t34Z77KMY— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 19, 2016
After Fleury and the PK plays well late, Crosby ices the game with an empty netter for his 25th goal of the season
- With Evgeni Malkin out again and the offense failing to produce much (3 goals in last 3 games), changes right off the bat to the top 2 lines. Phil Kessel up to the Kunitz-Crosby line and Patric Hornqvist down to the Hagelin-Cullen line.
- The Pens top PP got a slight revamp too with Conor Sheary joining the varsity unit in place of Chris Kunitz. They had Sheary on the right (usual Crosby spot) and Crosby bumped down near the net.
- Paid off early too, 2 nice shots on goal by Kessel in the first few minutes of the game (one coming off a near 3-line pass from Kris Letang) and Hornqvist earning the primary assist on the Lovejoy goal.
- Kessel also of course scored a goal, converting a Crosby pass, finally fulfilling the dreams of the summer. It marks the first ES goal for Kessel with the primary assist to Sid.
- Mrazek was red hot in 2016; 11-2-2, 1.59 GAA, .939 save %. The Pens got to him early and often, the traffic in front/ tipped shots is a good way to beat any tough goalie.
- If I had to bet which 1 Penguins bottom-6 skater would be a decent player to have down the stretch for this season, give me Sheary. His speed creates opportunities. He has good hands. Even though he's playing on a lower line, he's having success with possession and chipping in the odd point.
- Upon further review it was Mike Green that Sheary out-muscles down low to setup the goal. That in and of itself isn't shocking- Green was never very proficient in his own zone and prone to mistakes like that. What was shocking was how little impact Green had in the first two periods, can't remember his name being called at all. Quite a turn of events for a defenseman who once had a 31 goal / 73 point season and was very noticeable on just about every shift 5-7 years ago.
- The defense was huge in generating offense. Tonight's goals were a Lovejoy point-shot (fluke tip), Trevor Daley shooting from the wall (tipped, rebound going home), Derrick Pouliot earning an assist by making a simple chip back in, Maatta's point shot. All good stuff, need to take the puck from high-to-low to score in the NHL.
- And maybe best of all? Came from 4 different sources and none of them had to be Kris Letang. Letang's done so much heavy lifting for the defense this season they need others to step it up.
- Very clean game played too, no penalties on the Pens in the competitive portion of the game. It's seemed recently they have been taking some bad/sloppy/lazy penalties (hooking in offensive zone, delay of games, etc), good to see a clean game tonight.
- Interesting strategy and kudos to the Red Wings for pulling their goalie with about 3:53 left. Led to some pressure and the Pens taking their first penalty of the game. Down 2 goals, what do you have to lose? I like that aggressive type of coaching move.
Big win for the Pens, Kessel and Crosby played great on the same line tonight, Fleury stood tall, the defense was active, Sheary was making a difference...All positives. Now Pittsburgh turns for 2 weekend afternoon games on Saturday and Sunday and hopefully can keep their recent momentum going as well.