This game was the polar opposite of what happened the other night against the Panthers. Against Florida the Penguins were sluggish and seemed disinterred for long stretches of the game which resulted in a lopsided loss. Tonight the Penguins went up against a much better Montreal team and took them behind the woodshed. From start to finish the Penguins had their foot on the gas and it resulted in a 5-1 win.
For the second consecutive game Evgeni Malkin was just out of his mind. He single handily dominated the entire first period and while he didn't pick up his goal until later in the second period he could have had three in the first period. Whether it was the choice of the Canadiens or it was the Penguins being able to have last change the Malkin line was matched up with P.K. Subban and Malkin took his lunch on numerous occasions. He was beating him and forcing him into taking penalties and it was really just a dominating performance by Malkin.
A byproduct of Malkin being so good is Jussi Jokinen being able to capitalize. This guy is still "getting paid" by the Hurricanes and all he has done is put the puck in the back of the net and played really great hockey every day he has been in the black and gold. He found the back of the net twice tonight which put him up to 15 on the year. He has really made a name for himself on the second line and while he is playing with some highly talented players that doesn't always mean automatic production as we've seen in the past.
Interesting stat from the night is that each of the Penguins six defensemen (not including Deryk Engelland who was a forward tonight) recorded an assist. Now, none of them scored but they accounted for seven points with Matt Niskanen having two assists. You expect this kinda stuff from Kris Letang and Paul Martin but the other guys being able to move the puck and set up in the offensive zone is just huge. I mean the Niskanen-Olli Maatta pair is a third pairing. That is pretty sweet.
Much of the talk in terms of Marc-Andre Fleury is going to be what happened with about five minutes left in the game (which I will touch on later) but he really had a solid game in net. The Habs were only able to get off 24 shots but Fleury saved 23 of them and while Montreal was having a tough time getting shots off in the first he allowed the Penguins to pad the lead He gave up a goal late in the first period to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1 but after that he was a brick wall. He always gets jazzed up to play Montreal and sometimes he can get lost in that emotion, but not tonight.
The special teams were outstanding tonight. Montreal has a good power play and a good penalty kill and the Penguins won both of those battles tonight. The Penguins first power play was a bit of a mess as they got one below average shot off and had a really hard time getting in the zone and setting up shop. The second power play started that way but a Niskanen shot was redirected in by Taylor Pyatt and that opened it up. The Penguins third power play resulted in a sick shot pass from Letang on the stick of Sidney Crosby who scored from a ridiculously tough angle. All told the power play was 2-for-5 on the night. Montreal failed to score on any of their three power play chances. That is pretty much what won the game.
I talked about it earlier but with five minutes left in the game there was a skirmish around the Penguins net. Brooks Orpik was leveled into Fleury which resulted in a penalty. A dustup followed with everyone on the ice kinda bear hugging each other while Orpik then got sucker punched in the face. That was whatever but as Fleury was off to the side he kept looking at the other end of the ice. He then pointed and before you know it he was skating down the ice. Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj (who relieved Carey Price) threw up his arms and asked Fleury if he wanted to go and they skated towards each other. The linemen were able to step in and stop it from ever happening.
Good on the officials for stepping in and not letting that happen. I know that fighting is the cool thing to do in hockey and a goaltender fight is the highlight of that but there really wasn't any reason for that to happen. It was a 5-1 game and nothing but bad things could happen for MAF if he goes down there and fights. I probably feel a little stronger about this since I don't think there should be fighting in the NHL but if the officials didn't step in it could have been really bad. Entertaining? Sure? Do I want Jeff Zatkoff possibly goaltending every one of the next 20 games? No way. The NHL needs to clean this stuff up and hopefully the officials tonight were a glimpse into that.
Anyways, this was a pretty big matchup for the Penguins. They haven't been playing well over the past couple of weeks but this was a big time performance. They are back in action tomorrow and another good performance would go a long way in telling me that this was just a two week bad stretch and not something we should overly worry about.