AHL callup Chris Conner scores game winner
The Pittsburgh Penguins (33-20-1) improved their record to 4-0 against the New York Rangers (24-22-7), getting three third period goals en route to a 4-2 victory over New York on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
AHL callup Chris Conner (1, 2) led the way for Pittsburgh, scoring two goals including the game winner at 10:46 of the third period.
Down 2-1 in the third, Pittsburgh scored twice one minute apart when Evgeni Malkin (18) tied the game at 9:46 in the third, 16 seconds into a power play and Conner beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist short-side off of a Sidney Crosby rebound a minute later for the eventual game winner.
Pascal Dupuis (12) added an empty net goal for Pittsburgh with 39 seconds remaining.
Pittsburgh was excellent on the penalty kill for the second straight game, going 4-for-4 on the PK and the power play struck again in the third period, when Malkin blasted a one-timer past Lundqvist. Pittsburgh was 1-for-2 on the power play and have scored 6 power play goals in their last 4 games.
While some have questioned how Dan Bylsma used prospect Luca Caputi earlier this month, Bylsma deserves credit for putting AHL’ers Nick Johnson and Chris Conner in situations to produce.
Conner who is not a top-6 forward by any means is also not a 4th liner.
At 5-7, Conner is a shifty player who provides some speed up front to go along with some “puck skills” and Bylsma used him with Sidney Crosby for most of the night and it paid off, in Conner having a career night.
As for Nick Johnson, Bylsma has put him alongside Evgeni Malkin in a top-6 role that also suits his type of game.
Johnson does a lot of the little things well and while the puck was bouncing off of his stick due to the bad ice surface, he put together another consistent game.
Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury returned to action after missing 4 games and made 28 saves to record his 25th victory of the season. Fleury was sharp in between the pipes after a 11 day layoff.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t a good night for Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist had spots in the game where he was on top of his game but gave up two short-side goals to Chris Conner that he would have liked to have back.
Lundqvist made 24 saves in the loss.
Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Sergei Gonchar each had two assists on the night. Crosby was dominate in the face-off circle going 18-for-27 on draws (67%).
Malkin finished with a goal and an assist.
Rangers rookie Artem Anisimov led the way for the Rangers, scoring goals 8, 9, on the season.
Pittsburgh returns home Thursday night for a tilt with the surging Ottawa Senators.
Bill Guerin and Alex Goligoski each missed tonight’s game with undisclosed injuries. Goligoski is sidelined with an upper body injury and will have an MRI tomorrow, a team official told me this afternoon.
Max Talbot (lower body) sat out his third straight game. Talbot is hopeful to return to the lineup Thursday night. If not, expect him back by Sunday afternoon.
Martin Skoula returned to action for the first time in 9 games, after being a healthy scratch for the previous 8 games.
Enforcer Eric Godard suffered a right knee injury in the first period and did not return to the game. There is some concern that it could be something serious. Godard like Guerin, Goligoski, will be evaluated by team doctors tomorrow morning.