One thing that was pretty apparent today was that they wanted to get a bunch of shots on Holtby from anywhere on the ice. They only finished with 26 shots overall and had nine shots each in the first and second period but the first two goals from the Penguins came from a Paul Martin shot from the point off a faceoff win and a Matt Cooke goal in front of the net from a Deryk Engelland shot from just inside the line. It was a great job by both of those guys just getting the puck on the net and they were rewarded for it. Two big goals from a couple of guys that aren't going to factor directly into the scoring.
While Martin is a guy who is known for some ability in the offensive zone I don't it really gets mentioned the different that Engelland has on the offensive side of the ice. Sure, he isn't going to be a scoring threat, nor is he going to dazzle you with great passes but what he is very good at is consistently getting the puck on net and giving the guys in front chances off of rebounds and redirections. The shots aren't always particularly hard all the time but he gets the puck on net way more often than not and for a guy that isn't relied on for offensive production that is huge.
I must also pat myself on the back a little bit because before the game I sent this little feeling out:
Letang is going to score a huge goal today— Cory (@ThreeRiversBlog) February 3, 2013
Well Letang gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead after one of the flukiest goals you'll see (I will touch on later) and it was the first of three straight goals that gave the Penguins a 5-2 lead after two periods of play and the game was essentially over at that point. Letang played a pretty solid game for the most part and looked much more confident with the puck and on his goal he really waited for the right time to let it go and it beat Holtby under the left arm. Truth be told is was a really soft goal to give up but you will take them however you can get them.
Oh, I guess I should probably talk about Chris Kunitz, huh? Dude was the definition of brutal for the first seven games of the season but in the last two games he has four goals and maybe should have five goals if it was determined that he tipped the Martin goal. He scored three today (so far) and was one of the best players on the ice. He was playing the way he was last season and maybe it just took him a while to get into his flow. He was nothing less than outstanding today and nearly set up another goal with a power move in the second period (I believe) and while some people weren't big Kunitz fans when he came over he proved that he is a great top six forward as he has excelled with both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin over the last couple of seasons. He has a great mix of talent and if this weekend was hit coming out party (for this year after a slow start) then watch out.
Tomas Vokoun was rock solid again in net. The stat line is going to show that Vokoun gave up three goals but I think that most reasonable people would say that he only gave up two goals. The reason I say that is because this was the second goal that he "gave up" to tie the game at two:
Yup, that happened. Other than that it was a good effort. He really didn't need to do much in the first two periods as the Capitals only had 13 total shots but it was the third period that really made his performance one that was top notch. After the Caps made it a 5-3 game with just under 17 minutes left I don't think there were many people who thought the lead was completely safe. All it took was one more goal to make it a one goal game then anything can happen. Vokoun stood tall and made all the saves he needed to and a few that were pretty spectacular and sealed the deal for the Penguins. I thought the signing was great if there was going to be an 82 game season but it still is looking to be a great singing considering the condensed schedule.
The Capitals had 22 giveaways and the Penguins had three takeaways which counted for 25 turnovers. That is a ton of turnovers. You aren't going to win too many games like that.
Crosby had a solid game with three helpers which put him within three points of the NHL scoring lead. Not too bad for someone he had a pretty slow start to the season. Malkin had a pair of assists and his assist on the second goal for Kunitz (a power play goal) was a thing of beauty. A Caps defender was without a stick so he wait and waited with the puck for something to develop, and it did. The Caps left Kunitz wide open on the far side and he buried a one-timer for the goal. Malkin didn't have the strongest of games and has struggled some the past few nights as he tries to adjust back to the NHL game but with that being said he has 12 points which is only four off the scoring lead so I guess things aren't really all that bad.
The guy who has been bad for the Penguins this weekend was Tyler Kennedy. Like most I thought that once he got moved back to the third line he would play better since that is a spot he has excelled at but he was brutal against the Devils and was really bad again today. He had under ten minutes of ice time and you have to think that maybe letting him take a seat in favor of Dustin Jeffrey might be a good idea but I don't get the feeling that is something Dan Bylsma is going to do.
Although it has been a really small sample size Zach Boychuk has been pretty good with Malkin and James Neal so far. He has the skill set to hold on that line and has just looked miles better than anyone else who has played on that line this season. It will be fun to continue to watch him on that line and with the strong play I don't think we will see him off that line as quickly as the others who have tried.
Four games for the Penguins next week including one against the Islanders, one more against the Capitals and a home-and-home against the Devils next weekend.