The Penguins faced off against the, at the time, 6-1 Washington Capitals on the road yesterday. The game was on NBC and was the Wednesday Night Rivalry Game of the week.
And rightfully so.
There were some monster hits dished out by both teams, mainly from the Capitals. These teams really just do not like each other. The Capitals are easily the Penguins’ biggest rivals behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
One huge factor that made these two teams rivals is the classical superstar vs. superstar: Crosby or Ovechkin?
Last night, neither of these players came up large, but the Penguins prevailed 3-1. It was a huge win against a very good Capitals team…on the road too.
Tonight, the Penguins faced off against the Buffalo Sabres. Probably the biggest story of this game going in was the return of former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to Pittsburgh…but this time he was behind the opponents’ bench.
The Sabres, who came into the night missing 3 of their top players (Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Zach Bogosian), registered a whopping 53 shots on goal. The Penguins had only 29 shots, but they outscored Buffalo where it matters the most and won 4-3 in a close game.
Although many Penguins fans (including myself) have not been completely satisfied with the Penguins so far this year. However…
Outside of that 0-3 start, the Penguins have put up a 6-1 record while beating respectable teams such as the Predators and Capitals, both on the road.
The Penguins finally put up more than 3 goals in a regular season game for the first time since they put up 6 against the Oilers on March 12th of last season.
Crosby put up 2 points tonight, Hornqvist and Dupuis scored their first goals of the season, Malkin stayed hot, Zatkoff saved 50 of 53 shots he faced after sitting on the bench the whole season…
Is there finally a reason to be optimistic about this Penguins team?
That’s for you to decide. I still want to see more from the Penguins in regards to the little things, but I am very pleased with the success they have had in the past 7 games…at least in regards to the win column.
I’ll recap the goals from BOTH the Washington and Buffalo games, and then give my overall impressions from both games.
Recap (Pens @ Caps)
After First Period: Pens 0 Caps 0
After Second Period: Pens 0 Caps 0
Karl Alzner had the puck behind his own net. He gave the puck to one of Washinton’s hottest forwards, Evegni Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov skated with the puck all the way down the ice and put a dcently long range wrist shot on goal after he entered the Penguins zone. The puck deflected twice off of Maatta then Scuderi and found it’s way past Fleury.
Pens 0 Caps 1
At this point, this game looked hopeless for the Penguins. They were 0-4 going into this game when giving up the first goal, and have been outright terrible at coming back in game under Mike Johnston. To add to it, the first goal of the game that gave Washington the lead was on an absolutely fluky play, one that would normally completely demoralize any hockey team.
Then Beau Bennett happened.
Just 24 seconds after the Caps took the lead, Olli Maatta had the puck in his own zone. Maatta saw a streaking Beau Bennett and tried to feed him a pass. The pass would have been just behind Bennett, but Bonino beautifully deflected the pass so that Bennett could take it in stride. He came in down the right wing, took a shot that was stopped, but then buried his own rebound to knot it up at 1.
Pens 1 Caps 1
Remember when I said that Kessel should play on a line with Malkin?
Remember when I said that was going to work?
Only 1:57 after Bennett’s goal, Kessel scored to give the Penguins the lead. As you can see, Kessel gave Malkin the puck and then drove towards the net. Malkin saw him cutting, and completed the give-and-go with a soft pass that threaded a few needles that went right to the stick of Phil Kessel, who made no mistake about it.
Pens 2 Caps 1
Seconds after the Capitals pulled Holtby in an effort to tie the game, the Penguins turned the puck over. Nick Bonino ended up with the puck, and lofted it up in the air from his own zone towards the empty net, and he nailed it. Right down the middle.
Pens 3 Caps 1
Final Score: Pens 3 Caps 1
Recap (Pens vs. Sabres)
Just 56 seconds in, the Penguins had the puck in the offensive zone. Ben Lovejoy had the puck at the point and found Crosby who was flying coming off of the bench. Crosby drove wide left and put a shot on goal. Johnson could not handle the puck, and Dupuis was right in front to knock in the rebound. His first NHL goal in almost a year.
Pens 1 Sabres 0
7:16 into the first period, the Penguins were again working in the offensive zone. The Sabres looked like they were about to clear the puck out, but ended up turning the puck over. Crosby found the puck, and just pushed a backhand pass to an open Patric Hornqvist, who blasted a one-timer by Johnson on the short side. This was Hornqvist’s first of the season as well. Nice to see him on the board.
Pens 2 Sabres 0
With 14:25 in the first, the Sabres answered. The puck was in the Sabres offensive zone and the puck squirted out to the point to young Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. He put a shot on goal that got deflected by 2 Sabres players and found it’s way past goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.
Pens 2 Sabres 1
Just over 2 minutes later, the Sabres were buzzing again in the offensive zone. Ristolainen once again had the puck at the point, but this time chose to shoot it down the boards behind the net. Ryan O’Reilly received the puck behind the net and fed a quick pass to Deslauriers who fired a quick shot past Zatkoff to tie the game.
Pens 2 Sabres 2
After First Period: Pens 2 Sabres 2
8:18 into the second, the Penguins got a huge goal from an unlikely source: Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy skated into the zone with Malkin in a semi 2 on 1 situation. Lovejoy dropped a pass off to Malkin, who then found Lovejoy streaking to the net. The original shot was stopped, but Lovejoy was able to get just enough of his rebound chance to get the puck past Johnson, and gave the Pens the lead back.
Pens 3 Sabres 2
The Penguins found themselves on a power play late in the period, and they finally capitalized it, in only their 3rd power play goal of the season. Letang fed a pass to Kessel who took a shot on Johnson right through Hornqvist providing a screen. Hornqvist poked the puck over to Malkin who was camped out in front. He kicked the puck to his stick, and buried the rebound.
Pens 4 Sabres 2
After Second Period: Pens 4 Sabres 2
The Sabres pulled their goalie with about 2:30 remaining, but it payed off for them quickly. Legwand skated the puck out from behind the net and spun around a put a low shot on Zatkoff. The shot was stopped, but O’Reilly found the rebound and put a shot on goal that was deflected in by Matt Moulson.
Pens 4 Sabres 3
The Penguins took a penalty with just under 2 minutes remaining, and played over a minute in what turned into a 6 on 4 situation. That being said, the Pens held on and kept the Sabres off of the score sheet.
Final Score: Pens 4 Sabres 3
Kessel and Malkin
Kessel and Malkin have combined for 8 points in the 3 games since the Pens switched lines. I told you it was gonna work, and it absolutely has. If you still don’t believe me, go watch the video of that Kessel goal again.
In these past 2 games, the PK has come up large against 2 VERY good power play units. They needed to come up large, and they did. It’s as easy as that. Props to the PK guys.
Especially against Washington, the Penguins 4th line was their best line. Although I hope that will not normally be the case, it is nice t see the Penguins’ 4th line actually producing good offensive chances, in comparison to Adams – Lapierre – Goc….
Thanks to all who keep up with me!
The next article will be up Saturday night/Sunday morning after the Pens take on the Leafs in Phil Kessel’s homecoming. Let’s hope the Penguins can keep the win streak alive.
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Also, I will be doing Q and A next week, so keep updated with my Twitter and Facebook pages for more info.