PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — The Penguins scored two carbon copy first period goals and held off a desperate charge from Phoenix Monday to win, 2-1, and extend their winning streak to six games.
Former Coyote Zbynek Michalek gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at the 11:44 mark of the first period as he took the puck and fired it past Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith from the right faceoff circle.
“Any time you score, it’s a good moment,” Michalek said, according to the Penguins official website. “I was happy for myself, it’s been a while. I’ve gotten a lot of chances lately and finally one went in. I kind of felt bad for their team at the same time. I have a lot of friends on that side and spent a lot of time playing with them. It was a big game for them. But it was a great goal for us, a big goal for us because in the first, they were coming at us hard. At the time, the momentum was on their side. It was a big boost for us and helped our team, definitely.”
The puck went off the bottom of Smith’s blocker and into the net, which was a familiar sight three minutes later when Penguins forward Chris Kunitz shot from the same circle and found the same hole in Smith’s stance for a 2-0 Penguins lead.
Despite the early deficit, the Coyotes pushed play for much of the first period and outshot the Penguins 12-11. In fact, Phoenix outshot the Penguins in each period and made a strong push in the third to tie the game up.
After a scoreless second, Coyotes forward Ray Whitney scored just 1:27 into the third period to cut the Pittsburgh lead to 2-1. Phoenix continued to force play into the Penguins zone and held a 10-5 shot advantage in the final stanza.
The Coyotes best chance to tie the game up came with 6:36 remaining when Matt Niskanen went to the penalty box for hooking in front of the net. However, the they couldn’t manage a single shot on net as the Penguins killed off the penalty.
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett pulled Smith with over a minute to play and had several offensive zone faceoffs with under a minute left but couldn’t get one more puck behind Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 36 of 37 shots.
“We’ve been winning, so that’s what matters,” Fleury said. “Every night, I just try to give our team a chance to win the game. They’ve been playing great hockey in front of me. Blocking a lot of shots and helping out a lot.”
With the win the Penguins moved four points ahead of Philadelphia for second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins climbed to within eight points of the first place New York Rangers.
The Coyotes, who are battling for their playoff lives, remain in seventh place in the Western Conference with 75 points, just three points ahead of Los Angeles in ninth place.