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Insider Only Penguins 2 – Coyotes 1: Fleury shines in win; Michalek stars defensively; Strait impresses & more Tidbits

Pittsburgh 2 – Phoenix 1

Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury (35-14-3) continues to make his move into Vezina consideration, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins (39-21-5, 83 pts) to a sixth straight win and 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes (33-24-9, 75 pts) on Monday night at the Consol Energy Center.
Earning his 35th win of the season, Fleury improved to 16-2-1 in his last 19 starts and was tremendous in the victory stopping 36 of 37 shots.
“He was our best player tonight, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I thought Coyotes played a really hard fast game against us and had number of opportunities and Marc Andre was extremely strong. Tonight {he was} probably the difference in the game, ” Bylsma said.
It was a night for the Penguins coming off a West Coast road trip where they gave up several prime scoring chances and the Coyotes made things happen offensively all night, but Fleury was there all night to bail his team out. Pittsburgh was outshot 37 to 28 and it was also a feisty game.
” It’s an important time. Points are important, ” Matt Cooke said on the feistiness of the game. “Sometimes being a little robust brings out the best in everyone. I think that’s what you saw tonight.”
For Pittsburgh, Zbynek Michalek (2) and Chris Kunitz (19) scored first period goals.
Evgeni Malkin assisted on Kunitz 19th goal of the season at 14:45 of the first period, extending his points streak to eight games and collecting point No. 81 on the season.
Ray Whitney (21) scored for Phoenix who also got a strong game from netminder Mike Smith, the games No. 3 star. Phoenix has lost three straight.
Pittsburgh is 10-1 in their last 11 home games and own the second best record in the Eastern Conference with 83 points. They hold a four point lead over Philadelphia for the No. 4 seed. The Penguins have won six of their last eight games against Phoenix.

TIDBITS

Zbynek Michalek the games No. 2 star, had a goal, 3 blocked shots and was excellent defensively in a team-high 25:09 of ice time. Michalek who scored his first goal in 38 games, turned defense into offense creating a Ray Whitney turnover and then jumped into the play with Jordan Staal on the rush. After the game though it was Michalek’s defensive play that stood out more for head coach Dan Bylsma. “The defensive side of it was even better from Z tonight, ” Bylsma said on Michalek’s two-way play tonight.
Jordan Staal being a force offensively continues to be something to watch and he’s reached the point where he’s now backing off defenders consistently and that happened on Zbynek Michalek’s goal where Staal backed in Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson coming down the right side with speed and hit a trailing Michalek.

— Really liked what I saw from Brian Strait tonight. He had a team-high 4 blocked shots, and added 4 hits in 12:19 of ice time. Defensively he was sound and showed good closing speed on players trying to beat him to the outside. Where he was also a factor was joining the play and in the second period had a great scoring chance, firing a blistering one-timer on a set-up from Steve Sullivan that Mike Smith made a great save on.
— Tyler Kennedy returned to the lineup after 11 games and had 3 shots on goal in 14:20 of ice time. Kennedy played on a third line with Matt Cooke and Joe Vitale.
Bylsma on the Cooke – Vitale – Kennedy line: “Definitely a lot of speed with him and Joe out there on the line, ” Bylsma said. “Thought TK looked pretty good, had some jump out there. It’s a defensive line but has a lot of speed for teams to handle.”
Ray Whitney scored his 21st goal of the season and has 15 goals and 48 points in 44 career games vs Pittsburgh.

BY THE NUMBERS

12-2-3: The Penguins record vs Western Conference opponents this season
18-4-1: The Penguins record since January 13th
98.1%: The Penguins were 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and are now 98.1% on the PK (53-54) against Western Conference opponents this season
16-2-1: Marc Andre Fleury’s record in his last 19 starts
.970: Marc Andre Fleury’s save percentage in his last five games, stopping 163 of the last 168 shots he has faced
41-11-8: Marc Andre Fleury’s record in the month of March since the 2006-2007 season
35: Marc Andre Fleury has posted four straight seasons of 35 wins or more
35: Evgeni Malkin has 35 points in his last 19 home games, averaging 1.84 points per game at home
5: Jordan Staal extended his assist streak to five games, tying a career high of 5 games (assist streak) from April 4-11, 2009.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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