The Penguins showed no ill effects of play the most games in the NHL and playing the night before by coming out and playing some inspired hockey despite missing most of its lineup and playing over half of the game with only five defenseman. The Pens picked up the 4-2 win on Tuesday night and earned its day off tomorrow before returning to action on Thursday.
Let’s not get it twisted, this is a pretty big win for the Penguins. No Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Orpik, Jeffrey, Kennedy and Letang and all the Penguins did was come in and take two points in regulation. This was the teams eighth game in 13 nights and they have been all over the nation but it just didn’t matter. This might be one of the signature wins of the year. I know that might seem pretty brash but for what this team is dealing with right now I think you can somewhat agree with that sediment.
Because of the back-to-back games Brent Johnson was the starter in net tonight and he gave a big time performance. He stopped 24 of 26 shots and kept the game close until the offense could put the game out of reach. There was a spot in the third period where Beej got his legs tangled up and was a little banged up but he stayed in there and made some unreal saves. I don’t know who the three stars were but he was the first star of the game. Great performance from him.
James Neal is just on an unreal tear. Going into the season a lot of people were wondering if he would ever be able to live up to the hype that he brought to Pittsburgh but right now he is the best player on the ice. With the Penguins leading 2-1 and the Wild just scoring a shorthanded goal to get back into the game Neal gather the puck and beat Niklas Backstrom between the legs to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead and really gave them some breathing room. Neal was strong on the puck all night and had a couple of really good opportunities and he just continues to make them count. Right now things just look easy for him and the Penguins really need that with the lack of offense they put out on the ice nightly.
A lot of people are also not on the Jordan Staal bus but the dude came to play tonight and had a huge goal to push the Penguins lead to 2-0. Hell, it was a power play goal too! I think people get the impression that with Crosby and Malkin out that Staal needs to provide the offense but that isn’t the type of player he is. He is an unreal two way player that will score the occasional goal but he really excels at the stuff that doesn’t show up on the score sheet. He is typically matched up against the opponent’s top line and he logs major minutes on the PK where the Penguins are damn near perfect. Keep that in mind.
Speaking of the PK the Penguins were flawless again tonight in five attempts for the Minnesota Wild. The Pens have only given up one power play goal all season but outside of that they have been spectacular. Honestly when the Wild were getting its power play opportunities I just thought “oh well this is a good way to kill two minutes of the clock. Just unreal work by the penalty kill. The highlight of the PK’s night was scoring its third shorthanded goal in the first eight games. Matt Cooke won a loose puck around the blue line and banked it off the boards to a streaking Pascal Dupuis who beat Backstrom with a sick move. That made the game 4-1 with like seven minutes left and it was officially over.
It wouldn’t be a Penguins game without an injury would it? Well there was an injury to the defense when Brian Strait went down with what looks like a wrist injury. I am not going to pretend to be a doctor but it didn’t look good. Not only is that bad because Strait could help this team out with the absence of Orpik and Letang but it meant that the team was going to have to play with five defenseman for more than half of the game. No fear though as the defense picked it up in a nice game.
With all the injures and such it has to be hard for a team to keep things together. I get the feeling that some people don’t really fully support what Dan Bylsma has done since taking over as head coach but tonight was the epitome of Disco keeping this team together. Last year without Crosby and Malkin he was able to get the team on the same page and nearly get them to the second round. This year he sticks with the grind em down attitude that sometimes is frustrating but it is still getting results and I will take that every day of the week until the cavalry comes.
Nice win tonight. Get some sleep. You deserve it.