The more things change the more things stay the same. With a couple of different guys banged up and Tyler Kennedy coming back to the lineup the Penguins just continued to win and pushed their win streak to six games with a 2-1 victory over Phoenix. The loss was the third in a row for the Coyotes after they didn’t lose a game in regulation in all of February.
Let’s not kid ourselves, this game was all Marc Andre Fleury. The Penguins were not very sharp at all, especially in the defensive end, but MAF was on top of his game today. He gave up a goal in the early part of the third period but then shut the door down. One of the saves was short handed:
This is just one of the many great saves he made. While I don’t really believe you can 100% attribute wins and losses to goaltenders they should get their fair share in that statistic. Tonight was MAF’s 35th win of the season and in doing that he became only one of four goaltender in NHL history to win 35 games or more in four straight seasons (stat via ESPN). Not too shabby there Mr. Fleury, not too shabby at all.
In the preview I talked about how one mistake in a game like this could be the difference between a win and a loss and that might have happened in the middle of the first period. The game was at kind o fa stalemate but the Penguins were able to put two goals past Yotes goaltender Mike Smith in a three minute span to take a 2-0 lead. Both goals were softies given up by Smith who has been really solid recently but for a few minutes he was really off his game for that time and it cost Phoenix the game.
Of all people to score the first goal of the game it was former Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek. It wasn’t really a special shot or some great play that Z made but he got some space between a few defenders and put a puck on the net on the blocker side and just beat Smith.
3:01 later Chris Kunitz scored his 19th goal of the season on a shot to the blocker side that beat Smith. Another goal that probably should have been stopped but it wasn’t and the Penguins were up by two. Kunitz has 19 goals and probably close to eight taken away this season and it was assisted by Evgeni Malkin and Paul Martin. Malkin really took up a lot of attention on the play as he was pretty much double teamed and was able to get it to Kunitz who beat Smith.
As I said it wasn’t a great game for the Penguins but sometimes you have those and when you can get two points in regulation then you will take that. The Penguins were outshot 37-28 and only were able to muster five shots in the third period and they lost in the faceoff dot tonight by nine (34-25) and those are two areas that need to be cleaned up. They won, but that doesn’t mean it was acceptable.
A guy who has been playing well all season and really had a nice game tonight was Joe Vitale. He didn't show up on the score sheet but he is a guy that might not have a big stature but will throw his body around and be a physical force. He sticks up for his teammates but is still skilled enough to be an offensive threat. As the game was getting to crunch time tonight his line was on the ice and they kep the puck in the offensive end to kill time and he did whatever it took to get the puck and keep it. He won't get too much press or notice but he is the kind of guy you need to have on your team.
The Penguins will return to the ice on Wednesday when they play Toronto.