Last season the Penguins would be in a tight game in the third period and not be able to put the game away without Sidney Crosby Evgeni Malkin. The last couple of games that is not the case and they are starting to dominate teams in the third period and give them no chance to even sniff a victory. That was the same case tonight as the Penguins were up only 1-0 after two periods of play but they put three in the back of the net in the third period and made the Devils look average at best.
Jordan Staal was the star of the show tonight and continues his great play as he contributed two goals and dominate play all night. The first goal was an absolute snipe on the power play to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first period off a nice feed from Richard Park. Then with the Penguins up 2-1 in the third period Staal used his patented power backhand move and beat Johan Hedberg and virtually put the game away for the Penguins. The second of Staal’s goals was his 100th of his career and to say that he was dominant tonight would be a pretty big understatement. People are constantly giving Staal a hard time but as I said a few nights ago stats don’t always tell what the players do but Staal wanted to prove that he can put up the stats. Five goals this season for Staal. Say something haters.
A huge turning point of this game came early in the third period. The Penguins went on a four-minute power play when Patrik Elias high sticked Steve Sullivan but it wasn’t Sullivan that went to the box. Petr Sykora went to the box instead. The officials did not change that even though it was pretty clear it was Elias. What happens? Ilya Kovalchuk finds Elias for a shorty to tie the game at one. This was tough as you didn’t really know which Penguins team was going to show up but it was apparent pretty quickly which one it was. On the power Chris Kunitz sniped one past Hedberg and then Staal’s goal came 1:10 later. What a way to answer. The Penguins don’t do that last year and they have done it to the Canadians and now the Devils in the past two games. Great to see.
James Neal put the game away with just over 10 minutes left with his eighth goal of the season. Ho hum. Not much else to say about Neal as he continues to lead the league in goals. What might be unnoticed about Neal is his two way play. Tonight he was very good in the defensive zone and really plays a complete game that is required to succeed in Dan Bylsma’s system. We should probably trade Crosby or Malkin for a center for Neal.
I know a ton of people are going to talk about Staal and Neal and the offense (kinda like I have) but you really have to give MAF some big ups for playing another excellent hockey game in net. Remember this was a 1-0 game for two periods of play and didn’t get comfortable till about five minutes into the third and MAF was a brick wall, again. Last season he has a horrid start to the season before turning it on but right now he is zoned in and has only given up two goals in the last two games. He made 23 saves tonight and while he didn’t make as “big” of saves as he did against Montreal he again gave the team a chance to pull away.
The Devils play some God awful boring hockey. I mean I understand how they still only have like six fans. On the same note as the Devils its big money gun, Ilya Kovalchuk, came up pretty small on the offensive end and cost the team a goal tonight that basically put the game away. He did end up with an assist on the shorthanded goal but he didn’t register a single shot on goal and had only one attempted shot. On the second Jordan Staal goal he left the ice for a line change with the puck in his defensive zone giving Staal wide open area to work and score. I have no idea what he was doing. Just lazy and undisciplined.
I also want to touch on Hedberg and his play tonight. Granted he gave up four goals and just like the Kovalchuk mess up they were not all on him as he was hung out to dry a good bit but it was tough to root against the guy. As you remember Hedberg was the goaltender for the Penguins in the magical 2001-2002 season. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for him and what he did for the Pens and it sucks that he got hung out like he did by the Devils. Also a curious situation with him on the ice as he got the goalie chant from some of the CEC crowd after the James Neal goal. Personally I wouldn’t do that to Hedberg if I was there and I am not sure if it was just the fans being unaware or not just caring but just something I wouldn’t do. I saw on twitter that a lot of people didn’t like it. I agree, to an extent, but if you want to say that then don’t complain when you say CEC is quiet. I thought the fans were good tonight when they typically have been quiet at home games but you can’t have it both ways. They were trying to get into the game and while it wasn’t the best person to do it to (in my opinion) it wasn’t like they were all walking out after the fourth goal halfway through the third.
Another big win for the Penguins as they moved to 6-2-2 on the season. Nice start despite playing double the games as some of the other teams in the NHL.