Penguins winning streak ends at 4
Once again the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-3-1) were unable to solve goaltender Jaroslav Halak but this time Halak stifled the Penguins in a St. Louis Blues (4-2-1) uniform.
Halak shutdown the Penguins offensive attack making 31 saves and 2006 1st overall pick Erik Johnson scored 50 seconds into overtime, lifting the St. Louis Blues to a 1-0 victory over the Penguins.
The Blues improved to 4-1-2 on the season and have posted back-to-back wins on consecutive days against the past two Stanley Cup winners, defeating Chicago 4-2 on Friday night and Pittsburgh 1-0 tonight.
The win extended the Blues home winning streak to 10 games.
Halak who improved to 4-1-1, showed great poise and was in his comfort zone, resembling his play against the Penguins last spring.
Halak kept the Penguins scoreless during a second period onslaught when Pittsburgh outshot St. Louis 19-7 in the period. Pittsburgh outshot the Blues 32-24 overall.
“In the second, I thought we outplayed them and generated a lot of chances,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said in his post-game comments.
Halak frustrated Pittsburgh offensively but the Penguins again got stellar goaltending from backup Brent Johnson (4-0-1) who made 23 saves in the loss. Johnson made several tough stops and continues to press for more playing time.
This was a game that could have went either way and an interesting dynamic is that head coach Dan Bylsma did not rely heavily on using Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby together on the same line during regulation in attempt to get something by Halak.
Through the early stages of the season, Bylsma has used Crosby and Malkin together extensively at times and the two were coming off a strong game together against Nashville in which they combined for 5 points and 17 shots on goal.
Bylsma surprisingly stayed away from using the combo together at even strength during regulation. Near the end of the third period, Bylsma even altered his top two lines, moving Mike Comrie to the top line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz, while Pascal Dupuis moved down with Malkin and Mark Letestu.
Crosby and Malkin did start out overtime together during 4-on-4 play.
Pittsburgh has accumulated 3 out of a possible 4 points thus far on their current three game road trip.
The win for the Blues closes out a big weekend for the team in beating Chicago and Pittsburgh in back-to-back games.
Under head coach Davis Payne who is a close friend of Dan Bylsma, St. Louis plays an aggressive game in all three areas of the ice. With goaltender Jarslav Halak establishing himself as a true franchise goaltender and a young core in place, the Blues have the makings of a team that will be a tough out on a nightly basis.
One concern for the Blues though, could be their lack of scoring punch upfront as goal scoring forwards such as Brad Boyes continue to underachieve.
The Penguins will fly to Tampa Bay tonight and did not return to game action until Wednesday night.
*Defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup for the first time in 6 games. Orpik had 17:19 of ice time and during the first 30 minutes or so of the game, Orpik worked in as the third pairing. He appeared to be holding back early on but picked up his play as the game progressed. Orpik was second on the team with 5 hits in the game.
*Pittsburgh was 0-for-4 on the power play and are now a combined 0-for-9 in their past two games.
*Forward Eric Godard and defenseman Andrew Hutchinson were healthy scratches for Pittsburgh. Zbynek Michalek was scratched for a 6th straight game due to a shoulder injury.
Forwards Jordan Staal and Arron Asham remain on injured reserve. Asham will return to the lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.