Post-Atlanta Observations: Staal leads Pens’ to 5-2 win
The Pittsburgh Penguins (27-16-1) continued their dominance over the Atlanta Thrashers as Jordan Staal had two goals and one assist and Brent Johnson (5-3) made 31 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 Tuesday night at Mellon Arena.
The win snapped a five game losing streak for the Penguins while the Thrashers winless streak reaches nine.
Luca Caputi (1), Kris Letang (2), Ruslan Fedotenko (8) also scored for Pittsburgh.
Johnson continues stellar play
Pittsburgh got a strong performance from backup goaltender Brent Johnson who made 16 first period saves and like he has all season, gave his team a chance to earn two points.
Third line combines for 6 pts
The work of the Penguins third line gave the Penguins a much needed offensive boost as Jordan Staal (2g – 1a), Matt Cooke (1 assist), and Tyler Kennedy (2 assists) combined for 6 points and were a plus-9 on the night.
Letang scores first goal in 20 games
For the first time since November 28th, 2009, Pittsburgh got a goal from a defenseman as Kris Letang opened the scoring for Pittsburgh, getting a free lane to the net and beating Ondrej Pavelec 39 seconds into the second period.
Letang played one of his best games of the season showing confidence in the offensive zone and was tied for a team high 4 hits.
One knock on Letang from talent evaluators of late is that Letang is taking careless shots in the offensive zone and not making the smart play. We didn’t see that tonight. The key for Letang will be to build off of tonight’s game. Consistency continues to plague the young defenseman.
Malkin elevates game
Evgeni Malkin only had an assist on the night but he had an extra jump in his step. Having a player in Luca Caputi who can provide a net presence didn’t hurt. Meanwhile, Malkin made a few careless passes in the D-zone which remains a problem.
Luca Caputi’s season debut went about as well as expected. “It was a little nerve racking in the first couple shifts, ” Caputi said.
Caputi was effective on the forecheck with his stick in the lanes at all times and his speed didn’t appear to be an major issue tonight alongside Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko.
Caputi is going to be over-matched in the corners at times as his body still needs to fill out but his aggressiveness on the fore-check was a good sign as Caputi was tied for a team high 4 hits.
Dan Bylsma talked after the game how he was very pleased with Caputi’s performance. “Really impressed, ” Dan Bylsma said. Caputi scored in his first NHL game of the season for the second consecutive season.
Evgeni Malkin appeared to jumpstart his game tonight and the same can be said for Ruslan Fedotenko who added a goal and an assist.
Player of the Game
Jordan Staal – Scored goals 12, 13 of the season and added an assist for a three point night. Staal is tied with Evgeni Malkin, Bill Guerin for second on the team with 13 tallies.
Next Game: 1/7/10 vs Philadelphia
- Defenseman Sergei Gonchar is slated to participate in his first full practice since injuring his foot on Wednesday. Gonchar missed his third straight game but is progressing. Gonchar is optimistic that he will play Thursday night.
- Assistant coach Mike Yeo was released from the hospital this afternoon. Yeo is expected to be cleared to return on Saturday for the Penguins five game road trip.
- Forward Max Talbot was a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh.
- Winger Ruslan Fedotenko suffered a mild ankle injury in the period. Fedotenko indicated after the game that he is fine and doesn’t expect to be limited in practice tomorrow.
Quote of the Night
“Probably our best game in d-zone coverage,” —Dan Bylsma