So, that was pretty fun tonight huh? The Penguins did what it should do against a team not in the playoffs and they buried that team. While they didn’t dominate from the onset they outscored the Jets 6-2 in the second and third period and rolled to a wild 8-4 win.
There is no reason for me to even go over all the goals. There were way too many of them. Basically what it boiled down to was the Penguins being the better team despite playing some shoddy defense for more than a period. The defense looked lost and left Brad Thiessen out to dry in the first period and let Winnipeg take a 2-1 lead before the Penguins tied it up. It wasn’t pretty but they got through a bad period with the score tied.
After the Jets tied the game at three just four minutes into the second period the Penguins scored three of the next four goals in the game and it was over. The Jets are fighting for a playoff spot and are a few games back and the Penguins are one point back of having the most points in the Eastern Conference. You could tell that these respective teams were in different positions. You could tell that one team had a high level of talent and the other team was fresh off a year where they were in Atlanta. This is to not say that the Jets are a terrible team or a bottom dweller but the Penguins are just on another level and playing the best hockey of any team in the league right now. It is awesome to watch.
-So about what I said in the preview about James Neal. I guess we can just forget about that. In case you forgot what I wrote I just pointed out that Neal has only five goals since the new year and he was in a pretty bad slump and it would be nice if he broke out for a late season run. Well all he did tonight was score a hat trick, before the third period. Neal was scoring goals like he usually was, by bad angle shots and ripping pucks past helpless goaltenders. Before tonight he scored two goals in the previous four games so maybe he is getting into the groove again. It is great to see.
-So, all that talk about Evgeni Malkin not being the favorite for the Hart now is over, right? He now holds a nine point lead on Steve Stamkos with anywhere from 10-12 games left and I can’t imagine any way Stamkos catches him and with a pair of goals tonight there is a outside shot that he can get to 50 goals himself. He now has 43 goals on the year and would it really surprise you if he got to 50? This was Malkin’s fourth five point night of the year and he really just made it look easy tonight. Malkin's goal that made the game 5-3 also was his 200th of his career. What a player.
-Sidney Crosby might not be scoring goals but man is he setting them up. He had four helpers tonight, three of which were primaries. He is looking better and better each game and it was pretty awesome to see him, Malkin and Neal combine for 13 points and five goals. Secondary scoring has been carrying the Penguins a little more lately so it was good to see the big dogs come out and eat.
-While Brad Theissen wasn’t great he did enough to win tonight. Giving up four goals is never good but when you teammates can pick you up like they did it works out alright. Marc Andre Fleury got his rest and the Penguins got two points in regulation.
-For as much bashing as Tyler Kennedy takes he responded in a big way. A couple of goals and you could tell that a season’s worth of frustration came off his shoulders if only for one night. TK hasn’t been good, at all, for the entire year but if he can heat up a little bit maybe some part of his season can be salvaged.
-The Penguins were also very good in the faceoff circle tonight as they won 42-of-73 tries from the dot. Can’t complain about that. If they can consistently beat other teams in that aspect they are going to be even better, if that is even possible.
-While this was a great win it was just that, a win. It doesn’t matter if the Penguins scored 100 goals and won by 98 or if they scored two goals and won by one, a win is a win is a win. The Penguins need to get back on the saddle because they play a very good Nashville team on Thursday and while it is not an Eastern Conference team the points are still mucho important if the Penguins want to take over the top seed in the East. Oh yea, the Flyers lost in regulation tonight. Perfect.