Pittsburgh 3 – New York 1
Chris Kunitz (8) scored two goals and Marc Andre Fleury made 37 saves, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night at Mellon Arena.
Evgeni Malkin (21) added a goal and an assist pushing his points streak to 11 games. The win snapped a two game losing streak and Pittsburgh improved to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against New York.
Kunitz appearing in his second game since having abdominal surgery on January 6th, fueled the Penguins offensive attack, scoring a momentum changing goal at 10:33 of the second period after Pittsburgh just killed off a 5-on-3 penalty and struck again late in the third period, beating Dwayne Roloson for a breakaway goal at 14:48 to give Pittsburgh a commanding 3-1 lead.
After surrendering 10 combined goals in a pair of weekend losses, Pittsburgh played a solid defensive game with excellent gap control in the neutral zone and keeping the Islanders to the outside in the defensive zone.
Marc Andre Fleury rebounded from lackluster performances against Montreal, Washington, with a strong game, earning his 29th win of the season.
In what was is an important three game stretch, Pittsburgh is off to a 1-0 start as the team is looking to go into the break on a high note. The Penguins continued their dominance against inferior teams tonight.
Pittsburgh is home against the New York Rangers Friday night.
Post-Game Wrap Up
*The Penguins played with a team toughness against New York that the team has lacked on a consistent basis. Michael Rupp was mixing things up throughout the game and Pittsburgh was playing with an edge.
Chris Kunitz also showed what he brings to the table, doing the little things well, like driving to the net and providing a net presence.
*Pittsburgh struggled mightily with their gap control against Montreal and Washington but they did tighten things up against the less-dynamic New York Islanders. Jay McKee and Kris Letang notably, were aggressive with their gap control, forcing turnovers at the blueline.
*The Tyler Kennedy/Matt Martin first period fight is the type of fight that belongs in hockey, unlike staged fights from enforcers who play four minutes a game.
*Dan Bylsma did an excellent job with the way he used Jordan Staal. Bylsma used Staal on the third line for the first 10 minutes of the game but then gradually used Staal with Malkin throughout the course of the game.
Evgeni Malkin’s second period goal was the second straight game that Staal and Malkin were on the ice together for a 4-on-4 goal.
*Sidney Crosby re-iterated after the game that a goal for Pittsburgh is going into the break on a high note. Crosby also praised his linemate Chris Kunitz, most notably Kunitz’ physical play in how he opens up space for himself and others.
Importance of face-offs
*The importance of face-offs was evident in Sunday’s loss and was once again tonight. Evgeni Malkin’s second period goal was off of a face-off win and the Islanders built some momentum in the third period, scoring off of face-off due to a blown assignment by Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang.
Penguins lack a kill instinct?
Sidney Crosby talked on Tuesday that the Penguins have lacked a kill instinct at times. Pittsburgh had somewhat of a let down in the third, letting the Islanders back in the game and being out shot 14-7 in the period. However, Pittsburgh was able to seal the win when Chris Kunitz iced the game with a late breakaway goal but the inability to play a 60 minute game continues to haunt the Penguins.
*Evgeni Malkin’s 11 game point streak is the longest active streak in the league.
*Pittsburgh dominated in the face-off circle. Evgeni Malkin was 71%, Sidney Crosby 61% and Jordan Staal 65%.
*Martin Skoula was a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh. Eric Godard (torn groin) and Max Talbot (groin) were also scratches for Pittsburgh.
*Ruslan Fedotenko’s goal less streak has now reached 15.
TIOPS Three Stars
1. Chris Kunitz – 2 goals, 4 shots, 3 hits
Analysis: Fueled Pittsburgh’s offensive attack and provided a much needed physical presence.
2. Marc Andre Fleury 37 saves on 38 shots
Analysis: Was aggressive, had good rebound control earning his 29th victory of the season. However, Fleury is still looking for his first shutout of the season.
3. Evgeni Malkin – 1 goal – 1 assist
Analysis: Pushed his points streak to 11 games
4. Michael Rupp – Played with the type of game that the Penguins signed him for. Was mixing things up throughout the game and provided the kind of toughness the Penguins need out of him on a game-by-game basis.
Stat of the night: Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin have been in on 29 of the Penguins last 32 goals.
Atlantic Division Race
1. New Jersey 59GP – 36W – 20L – 3 – 75 pts
2. Pittsburgh 60GP – 36W – 22L – 2 – 74 pts
3. Philadelphia 58GP – 30W – 25L – 3 – 63 pts
4. NY Rangers 60GP – 26W – 27L – 7 – 59 pts
5. NY Islanders 60GP – 24W – 28L – 8 – 56 pts
Capitals Win Streak Ends
The Washington Capitals 14 game winning streak came to an end tonight as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Capitals 6-5 in overtime.