The way the Penguins beat the New Jersey Devils Saturday afternoon at the Consol Energy Center is the type of game they are built to play; Make teams pay for mistakes and the Penguins did exactly that.
“I like that we scored a lot of goals today and came out in the third and got three goals,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “The way we got them is more indicative of how we played the game.” It wasn’t a freewheeling game, it wasn’t chance-for-chance.”
The Penguins were relentless on the forecheck, pressuring the Devils with their speed and it was a nightmare game for New Jersey in their own end.
“They pressured us with their speed and made us make mistakes,” Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “It’s not a fun game when you have a lot of breakdowns like that.”
Another bright sign for the Penguins was putting together another complete team defensive game. “We stuck to our plan, start to finish, and everybody helped out in our zone, ” goaltender Marc Andre Fleury said. Fleury wasn’t tested much as the Penguins gave up just 16 shots.
“It’s definitely nice to get a win at home,” Sidney Crosby said. “We had a couple of frustrating games here and we wanted to make sure we kind of stayed focused and maybe brought the same attitude we had on the road at home. We had a little more patience. We stuck with things and it’s something to kind of build off.”
Top-Line Gets Going: A big development for the Penguins going into the next stretch of games, was getting their top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis going and looking like the line that was one of hockey’s best lines during the first half of the 2010-2011 season. The three combined for 2 goals and 6 assists and a plus-10 rating. Crosby might have had his most complete game since the 2010-2011 season, prior to his concussion issues.
Crosby scored a beautiful goal off the rush and had two primary assists but it was also his overall game that stood out. He was a factor in the dirty areas, getting to the net and on the forecheck where he beat Krys Barch off the puck and setup Robert Bortuzzo who beat Martin Brodeur with a slap shot from the point to put the Penguins up 5-1. Crosby was 67% (14 of 21) in the faceoff circle and won an impressive 7 of 9 on draws in the offensive zone.
Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis have combined for 18 even strength points on the season. By comparison on the second line, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and wingers Eric Tangradi, Tyler Kennedy, Zach Boychuk and Dustin Jeffrey (used on the second line through eight games) have combined for just 10 even strength points.
Lovejoy on the move?: Robert Bortuzzo is doing what he’s needed to do. Make an impression and start gaining the trust of the coaching staff. Bortuzzo put together another solid game in all facets of the game. He got to pucks quickly in his own end to avoid the forecheck and also chipped in offensively, scoring his first career NHL goal. Bortuzzo’s smile was a mile long. “To get one past Brodeur is pretty exciting,” Bortuzzo said. “That’s a world-class guy in goal right there.” As Bortuzzo continues to gain the trust of the coaching staff, the chances of the Penguins trading Ben Lovejoy are increasing with Bortuzzo’s emergence if there’s a market for him. The Penguins won’t give him away but the Penguins have made it known to teams he is available, along with Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey.
Power Play: There’s not a lot to nitpick from this game but the power play showed no signs of improvement. The Penguins gave up a shorthanded goal and went 0 for 3 on the day. The Penguins are now 1 for their last 21 on the power play and managed just three power play shots vs New Jersey. In the third period on the Penguins final power play, we saw Paul Martin running the power play at the point with Kris Letang on the left side and Evgeni Malkin on the right side with Sidney Crosby and James Neal down low. Martin isn’t going to be the answer but Bylsma has to start trying something.
Tidbits: The Penguins dominated the Devils in the faceoff circle (31-21 and shots (30-16). Joe Vitale was 6 of 8 (75%) in the faceoff circle, upping his season average to 61.2%. Vitale was 5 for 5 in the defensive zone…...Zach Boychuk was pointless and had 3 hits and 1 shot in 12:00 of ice time. He was effective at pressuring the Devils with his speed in the offensive zone……Tomorrow’s goaltending matchup will be Braden Holtby vs Tomas Vokoun….