MORNING PENS BUZZ
In an up and down entertaining game, Sidney Crosby (4) had three goals and an assist for his eighth career hat trick and Matt Niskanen (1) scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 18.6 seconds left, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1-0, 8 pts) to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning (3-2-0, 6 pts) on Saturday night.
The Penguins went on the power play with 57 seconds left in the regulation with the game tied at 4-4 after Richard Panik tripped Brooks Orpik behind the play, and on Niskanen’s game winner, the Penguins isolated the Lightning penalty kill to the right side and Evgeni Malkin made a cross-ice pass to Niskanen who blasted a one-timer past Anders Lindback for the game winning goal. It was Niskanen’s first goal in 22 games.
“For the most part we just kind of read and take what’s there,” Niskanen said on his game winning power play goal.
Sidney Crosby also added 2 power play goals as special teams was big for both teams as the Penguins went 3 for 5 on the power play and Tampa Bay went 2 for 5.
Brooks Orpik (1) also scored in the win and Marc Andre Fleury stopped 14 of 18 shots to improve to 4-0-0 on the season. The Penguins outshot the Lightning 26-18 and held an 8-2 edge in the third period but Tampa Bay scored on one of their two third period shots when Alex Killorn scored a beautiful power play goal to tie the game at 4 with 3:02 left.
It was a closely even game but you can’t take bad penalties against a Penguins team with the fire power they have. “I think that was an even hockey game,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “They got that last break at the end and capitalized on it.”
NISKANEN’S ABILITY TO STEP INTO TOP-2 PAIRING ROLE, BIG REASON WHY PENS GAVE LITTLE CONSIDERATION TO MOVING HIM
When the Penguins signed Rob Scuderi, in addition to talk of Simon Despres having a bigger role this season (which obviously didn’t happen), Matt Niskanen strongly figured this summer that his future with the Penguins was in serious doubt.
Despite the need for cap space, the reality is the Penguins gave little consideration to moving Niskanen this past summer.
The Penguins feel Niskanen is a very good No. 5 defenseman and what they value is his ability to step into a No. 2 pairing role when needed, such as this season with Kris Letang missing the first five games of the season due to a minor knee injury.
A team source tells me basically what went into Niskanen not getting traded this summer is the Penguins didn’t feel confident enough in Simon Despres or anyone else being able to step into a No. 2 pairing role this season for when injuries pop up. The Penguins eye is on winning a Stanley Cup and while Niskanen’s long-term future is unclear, UFA at seasons end, the Penguins feel Niskanen makes them a better team than moving him does to open a spot for a younger player and that’s why he wasn’t moved.
Teams that inquired about Niskanen were told it would cost a first round pick for the Penguins to think about moving him.
Niskanen has flourished in replacing Letang in the lineup with 1 goal, 4 assists for 5 points and a +7 rating in five games. Niskanen is averaging 20:13 of ice time.
PLAYER NOTES FROM TAMPA GAME
*** Sidney Crosby’s four point game has moved him into the NHL lead with 9 points. A key for Crosby last night was getting to net as it’s been sometime since he’s scored a lot of deflection goals
*** Brooks Orpik had a goal, 7 hits and 4 blocked shots in the win. The Penguins have been thrilled with his play. Orpik is second in the NHL with 16 blocked shots. Paul Martin added 4 blocked shots as the Penguins shutdown pair combined for 8 blocked shots.
*** Deryk Engelland played 13:28, including 2:46 on the penalty kill in his first action of the season.
*** Dustin Jeffrey has no points and just 3 shots on goal in five games.