The Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded from a lackluster performance against the Florida Panthers to get back in the win column Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Was it their best performance of the season? Hardly, as the Penguins came out sluggish in the first period. However, they improved as the game went on and skated away with two points in the standings.
Craig Adams and Ryan Malone dropped the gloves right off the opening faceoff in a classic “staged fight.” The only reason I can come up with for Adams wanting to fight was to try and get the Pens going after a brutal performance Friday night against the Panthers.
Any positive effects from the fight were quickly squashed as Chuck Kobasew started the first period parade to the penalty box 17 seconds later.
Fortunately, the Penguins were able to survive three penalty kill situations in the period.
However, Valteri Filppula’s goal at 13:25, which gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead, seemed to wake the Pens up a little bit. Chances started to come and the Pens finally got a power play chance of their own, but they would fail to capitalize.
In the second period, Kobasew lit up Martin St. Louis, which some of the Bolts’ players took exception to. Eric Brewer immediately retaliated and was sent to the box for two minutes. Then, Malone was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the melee after the whistle.
Have I mentioned that I really like what Kobasew is bringing to this club? I’m pretty sure I have, but in case you’re new here, it seems like good things happen every time he touches the ice. I had never really pegged him as a “pest,” but he was certainly in Tampa Bay’s heads after that hit on St. Louis.
Anyway, Sidney Crosby cashed in on the power play to level the score on a great display of hand-eye coordination. On the edge of the crease, Crosby deflected a shot from his skate to his stick and tucked the puck between Anders Lindback’s pads. Words don’t do it justice, honestly. It was just a great play by Crosby.
The teams continued to trade chances and goals for the remainder of the period, but the Penguins trailed 3-2 after the second frame.
The third period was both special and bizarre to watch.
Crosby struck again just 25 seconds into the period to tie the game 3-3. Crosby skated in front of Lindback as Rob Scuderi let a shot fly from the point. Like all young kids are taught, Scuderi kept the shot low and Crosby had a patented deflection to the shelf. It never ceases to amaze me how players at this level can deflect pucks with relative ease and accuracy.
However, Crosby was not done there.
With Alex Killorn in the box, the Penguins put on a passing display that looked like something out of a video game. Evgeni Malkin fed Jussi Jokinen near the right faceoff dot, who one-touched it to Crosby on a platter. Crosby made no mistake with it and rifled it by Lindback to complete the hat trick, much to the delight of the impressive showing of Pens fans in Tampa Bay. Several hats even littered the ice.
Then, the game took a bizarre turn. Let me preface this by saying, I’ve seen officials help push an injured player to the bench before while the play is going the other direction.
I can’t say I had ever seen a referee push a player with a broken skate blade halfway across the ice, while his team was on the power play – until last night.
It was probably a shift to forget for Steven Stamkos. It started with Stamkos’ stick failing him on an attempted one-timer from his usual spot on the power play. Seconds later, he broke a skate blade along the near side wall.
The Penguins clear the zone and Stamkos is trying his best to get back to the bench. At this point, referee Gord Dwyer pushes Stamkos for a few seconds to get him the momentum necessary to reach the bench. During this process, Stamkos bumps into Paul Martin.
Why is that last part important?
Stamkos’ replacement was Killorn, who blew by a flat-footed Martin to the back post and scored probably the easiest goal of his life to tie the game 4-4 with just over three minutes to play. Had the Pens gone on to lose this game, this would have been a major talking point.
If you needed further proof that the hockey gods existed, you got it a couple of minutes later when Richard Panik took an ill-advised penalty with 57 seconds to play in regulation.
Matt Niskanen restored balance in the universe with an absolute laser of a one-timer off a cross-ice saucer pass from Evgeni Malkin, beating Lindback just inside the near side post with 18 seconds left.
Crosby was credited with the secondary assist on the game-winning goal to cap his four-point night. Crosby now leads the NHL with nine points (five goals, four assists).
It’s also important to note that the Penguins held the Lightning to just two shots in the third period. For the game, the Penguins allowed 18 shots to reach Marc-Andre Fleury.
While I defended Jeff Zatkoff yesterday after allowing six goals in his NHL debut, there is nothing Fleury could have done on any of the four that got by him against Tampa Bay.
Two were deflections, one was a wide open Stamkos who doesn’t miss if he has any time at all to pick a spot and the fourth was a backdoor tap-in mentioned above. I thought Fleury was strong when he needed to be, especially early on in the first period to help the Penguins kill of those three straight penalties.
The Penguins helped him out by blocking 14 shots, while clearing most, if not all, of the few rebounds Fleury left.
The first period left something to be desired, but as the game wore on and the Pens stayed out of the box, they found their legs and were able to “get to their game” to put in Dan Bylsma’s terms.
It wasn’t their best of the season, but it was enough to win the game.
Regardless, the season is only five games in and the Penguins are 4-1-0 and lead the Metropolitan Division by two points over Carolina. All in all, that’s a pretty good way to start the season.
The Penguins will return home to take on the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center. The Oilers possess a lot of young talent with guys such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, but have struggled out of the gate with a 1-3-1 record.
Edmonton will be in Washington Monday night to take on the 1-4-0 Capitals.
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