The Penguins welcomed the return of centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bonino after each was out of the lineup for an extended period due to injuries.
The first period was much of the bore like the 1-0 loss against the Jets in their last game but just 28 seconds into the second period, a breakout deep in the Penguins zone caught Winnipeg with two forwards deep in the Pittsburgh zone that allowed Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist to lead the rush with Kristopher Letang and Olli Maatta just behind them in support.
This enabled the hard-charging Kunitz to force both Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom to converge on him allowing Hornqvist to slide an easy pass to Letang to rip a half slapper by Michael Hutchinson, his 10th goal of the season.
@NHL --> Letang goal
As the crowd was finishing the 'Party Hard' goal celebration, 23 seconds later, Ian Cole's slap shot from the middle of the blue line was deflected by Carl Hagelin to put the Penguins into the driver's seat at 2-0.
Sidney Crosby almost made it 3-0 but Hutchinson made this sick save diving back to deflect the puck with his stick off the post. Yes... this is worth seeing on a replay... or two.
An Evgeni Malkin tripping penalty in the offensive zone leads to Jets PP goal cutting Penguins lead to 2-1 as defensemen Dustin Byfuglien shot from the point at crossbar level that enabled Blaked Wheeler to deflect the puck down and past Marc-Andre Fleury.
In the third period, Winnipeg had a few shifts that could have gotten them back into the game but Fleury held strong giving his team a shot to extend that lead and that's just what a Hutchinson gift thanks to his own 'Fleury Flake" behind the net that Nick Bonino contested along the boards and as the puck worked its way to Derrick Pouliot on the blue line, Scott Wilson (Big Red on Fire) moving in the high slot deflected the puck for a 3-1 lead.
An unreal shift in the offensive zone by Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Hagelin ended with Kessel wheeling out from behind the net on his forehand to find a wide open Hagelin on the backdoor slam dunk that Hutchinson almost stopped but couldn't get enough to stop it.
1. The fourth line of Matt Cullen, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Bryan Rust have quite a few shifts in this game that lead to offensive zone possession time and a few scoring chances for Kuhnhackl around the net.
2. Penguins lost Conor Sheary in the first period to an injury as defensemen Tyler Myers fell on him around the net.
3. After the All-Star break, it was obvious NHL had sent a memo to their officials to call more penalties and just as quickly as the referees were calling more penalties and more goals were being scored, it went back to the dinosaur age. Penguins had one power play opportunity (Blake Wheel - delay of game) and it didn't do much. Now that Malkin is back, let's see how the team can get the man-advantage back on track.
4. Look at the final result on the scoreboard and you'd think the Penguins had an easy game but if it wasn't for Marc-Andre Fleury's stellar goaltending in the second period after the Penguins had their lead cut to 2-1 and just before Hagelin's goal to make it 4-1.
5. A game like this really exploits the positives in Pouliot and why he has the potential to be a good puck moving defensemen. As Mike Darnay noted on Twitter, Jim Rutherford should get some credit for leaving Pouliot in the AHL to further his development. This could be why Rutherford feels comfortable looking for a depth defensemen, though rumors for the last week have connected the Penguins to Edmonton's Justin Schultz.