Before the game when I was typing up the preview I thought that this was going to be a really tight game and if the Penguins were going to win they were going to need Marc-Andre Fleury to be the best player on the ice and hope they sneak a few in the net. What happened was that the Penguins scored four goals in the first six minutes of the second period to break a scoreless tie and despite the Sharks cutting that lead to 4-1 Fleury was the best player on the ice. Things weren't perfect for the Penguins but only three other teams have defeated the Sharks in regulation and the Penguins handed them their worst loss of the season. I will take that.
Fleury got the number one star of the game and while that is meaningless it really told the story of the game. He faced 45 shots on the night and stopped 44 of them. In the second period, when the Penguins outscored the Sharks 4-1, San Jose had 24 (!!!) shots on net. There were some prime scoring opportunities and while he did get some luck on some shots that were juuuuuust wide he was outstanding in the second period. Turns out that they didn't need him to be great but he was anyways. He was great against the leagues number two ranked team.
The first period was tight and shots were only 12-7 in favor of the Penguins but the game opened way up in the second period. As I said the Sharks had 24 shots and the Penguins added 15 more and the wide open play really was taken to San Jose by the Penguins. They were able to get the puck to the net and get some dirty goals. They don't always have to be pretty but Chris Kunitz scored a pair off missed shots and Pascal Dupuis got a redirection in front of the net and it was great to see.
Evgeni Malkin tweaked something in the morning skate so he wasn't in the lineup tonight but it didn't matter. Malkin has been the focal point of the Penguins offense recently and there was, and should have been, some big time concern with him out of the lineup but it didn't matter. James Neal was playing up on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Kunitz and those three were just running circles in the offensive end. Olli Maatta was making moves and Kris Letang found the back of the net for the sixth time. Things were good.
It is going to go pretty much unnoticed but Crosby with three more points tonight. Sure, they were all assists but those count too and he was all over the ice. This really isn't anything different but he has been on another level. Malkin was nipping at his heels for the scoring lead and with Malkin out he decided to extend his lead. What a player.
Kunitz though, what a player. He scored a pair of goals tonight and now has 16 goals on the season. Going into tonight the league leader had 21 and while some might have thought he wasn't as good as he showed last year he is out there proving him wrong. He can do a little bit of everything and you have to think he is eyeing up playing in the Olympics for team Canada. How big of a snub would it be if he didn't make the Olympic team? Dude is an automatic on that team. That is how good he's been over the last few years.
People have been brining it up a little bit but how good has Matt Niskanen been? I will answer that, real good. He isn't going to rack up a lot of points (he didn't have any tonight) but he knows exactly what he is doing on the backend and makes the right play 99% of the time. He knows when to pinch and he knows when to play the man and he has been a big time stabilizing force on a defensive core that has been banged up big time. He was talked about being a trade chip before the season started but I can't imagine what things would be like without his steady play back there.
The Penguins had their way in the face-off circle going 31-24. The only negative is that they turned the puck over five times as opposed to only one Sharks giveaway but the Penguins did have seven takeaways so that was cool.