The West is a much better conference than the East is. The Penguins went into the STAPLES Center last night and really took it to the Kings, one of the best teams in the league in the last five years, and they made it look fairly easy. They scored three goals in the first 12 minutes and chased Jonathan Quick after one period of play and Jeff Zatkoff paired with a great defensive effort to not give up another goal after a first period power play goal from Anze Kopitar.
This was all about the second line. Evgeni Malkin might have played his best game of the season and Jussi Jokinen had three points including the third goal. I am not sure how he knew where Malkin was on the first goal of the night, just 57 seconds into the game, but he made a no look, behind the back pass right onto the tape of Malkin and he slid it into the empty net. Not much more was needed as a statement than that.
The Penguins really put it away about halfway through the period thanks to Malkin. As he was taking the puck along the blue line he drew two penalties at the same time. The first was a slash from Dustin Brown and the second was a hook from Jarret Stoll. Honestly these pentalties happened at the same time. No idea how the officials saw both of them, but they did.
Here is the play thanks to [The Pensblog]:
All of this is great but Jokinen has really been outstanding this season. His 16 goals so far this season are the most since he had 19 in the 2010-11 season and his 39 points are the most since the 2011-12 season when he finished with 46. Actually outside of scoring 30 goals in 2009-10 he hasn't scored more than 19 in a season. With a bunch of games still left on the schedule I think he has a pretty good chance of hitting that mark. Really nice to have him on the team and to have Carolina paying half of his salary while he plays with Malkin and James Neal. Good stuff.
That gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 and they didn't mess around. To start they sent out five forwards and scored 45 seconds into it as Chris Kunitz got a pass from behind the net from Jokinen and beat Quick and then Jokinen scored with 18 seconds left on the second penalty. It is really fun to watch this power play. I know people get worked up from time-to-time about the Penguins relying too much on the power play but I don't really care. Goals are goals and while you would like to carry the play when you are 5-on-5 but the Penguins still score a ton of goals in those situations.
Tanner Glass scored a pretty sick goal halfway through the second period to really put the icing on the cake. Glass hasn't been overly good this year but the past three or four games he has played some better hockey. I am not sure we can bank on Glass playing this well (relatively speaking) for any long stretches but it is good to see him picking his game up and making teams start to respect him when he is on the ice.
The Penguins PK unit gave up a goal on the first Kings power play of the night to tie the game. After that they shut them down on the next three attempts including two in the third period. A three goal lead is pretty safe in the third period but the Kings went on the power play twice in the first half of the period and they got nothing. All it took was for one goal to go in on that first power play and it might give them some confidence and then a bad bounce on the other makes it a one goal game with nine minutes to go and all of a sudden it's a game. That didn't happen. The PK has been outstanding all season and despite the goal early last night it was again.
Zatkoff has been pretty damn good this season. In his first two starts of the season he gave up 10 goals on 55 shots. That is not very good. His next 10 starts he's given up 21 goals. So far this month he has only a .909 save percentage which isn't great but he has played pretty well since those first two and the Penguins are 9-0-1 in those 10 games with the only loss coming in overtime. Marc-Andre Fleury has been carrying the weight a good bit this season and hasn't been playing overly well but it is nice to have a guy like Zatkoff who can come in and give him a couple days off.
You can really talk all you want about how Sidney Crosby is the reason that Kunitz is playing so well but at some point you have to just give him some credit for being a pretty outstanding player. He now has a career high in goals with 27 (in only 54 games) and after last season when he scored 22 goals in 48 games I think you can say that he is about as dangerous as anyone on the ice. Sure, Crosby is going to help him a bunch but man has he been locked in. His career high for points is 60 and right now he has 55 with a bulk of the season left. That'll do Chris, that'll do.