ON PENGUINS – BLUES
Marc Andre Fleury allowed 3 goals for the sixth time in seven games in the Penguins 4-3 overtime win vs the St. Louis Blues and the Blues two third period goals were one’s Fleury surely wanted back.
It wasn’t a great night from Fleury but the Penguins OT win can be traced back to Fleury’s performance in the first period.
St. Louis controlled the play early on with the Penguins falling behind 1-0 on a Paul Stastny power play goal. Fleury, though, kept it a one goal game as Fleury continues to be brilliant this season during those long stretches in periods where the Penguins get badly outplayed and keeps the period from becoming a disaster. Wednesday night was no different.
Minutes after the Stastny power play goal, Fleury would make a dazzling left arm save on Stastny off a Penguins turnover who had a wide open net to put the Blues up 2-0.
Then the Penguins fortunes changed as a Fleury breakaway save would see Pittsburgh go the other way and tie the game 1-1 as Pascal Dupuis forced a Carl Gunnarsson turnover and Gunnarsson left the puck on a platter for Sidney Crosby who blasted a slap shot past Jake Allen. The turnover was so bad it was shocking Gunnarsson saw another shift.
Suddenly Sidney Crosby was playing with a new found confidence and the Penguins got momentum from there.
“He put it on a tee for me there. It’s nice to put that one in,” said Crosby. “I don’t know what would have been going through my head if that didn’t go in.”
Pittsburgh played one of their strongest periods of the season in period No. 2. A Crosby power play goal put the Penguins ahead 2-1 but it wasn’t just a night where a star carried the Penguins.
Ben Lovejoy had a goal and an assist, the fourth line of Plotnikov – Cullen – Fehr had their finest game of the season and played a dominant game together.
They pounded the Blues all game in the offensive zone with pucks down low and the Penguins coaching staff made a nice adjustment throughout the game in getting the 4th line out against the Blues top line. The dominance that the Cullen line had on the cycle hemmed the Blues top line in their own end for significant stretches 5 v 5.
Cullen was on the ice for 14 shot attempts and just 3 against at even strength.
It prompted Blues coach Ken Hitchcock eventually putting Taresenko on the third line to get him away from the matchup. The Blues are big and play heavy but that’s not the way the Tarasenko line likes to play.
“They [fourth line] were really good all night. And I didn’t care who they played against,” said Penguins head coach Mike Johnston. “
Penguins figure out Blues Forechecking Pressure
The Penguins struggled mightily Saturday night vs the Sharks in dealing with the Sharks forechecking system. A staple of Peter DeBoer’s system, is forcing the ‘D’ to their backhands on the forecheck. When the Devils had their best team under DeBoer (11-12) they were great in that area. With a similar team now in San Jose, the Penguins had no answer in being able to adjust to the Sharks forechecking system.
During the first period vs the Blues it looked like it was going to be the same story. The Blues are a precise forechecking team that takes excellent angles. Their game is built off creating turnovers from the F2 along the wall after the F1 provides pressure. Penguins had significant trouble early on but unlike Saturday, the Penguins were able to figure out an adjustment after period No. 1.
Short support was key along with hitting the center low. The final two periods saw the Penguins consistently have clean breakouts (minus the Malkin turnover on Blues third goal) compared to period No. 1, leading to puck possession through the neutral zone and better zone entries as evident on the Lovejoy third period goal.
Source: Any Tension in Crosby/Lemieux Relationship is more from Crosby’s inner circle towards Lemieux than Crosby himself