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Insider Only Penguins – Wild Takeaways: Maatta the top storyline; Perfect winger for 87 has been here all along; Niskanen ($$$)


1. The Penguins extended their winning streak to six games with a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night and all of the buzz afterwards was about rookie defenseman Olli Maatta.
It was another excellent all around game from Maatta with some added offense tonight at a critical time in the game, scoring a shorthanded penalty shot goal at 7:54 of the third period to put the game away at 5-2. At the end of a 5-on-3, Maatta exited the penalty box and Zach Sill flipped the puck out of the zone towards a streaking Maatta at center ice who was taken down on a breakaway by Jonas Brodin and was awarded the penalty shot.
Maatta would beat Niklas Backstrom by deking right then shooting left to become just the second Penguins defenseman in team history to score on a penalty shot.
Seeing a defenseman get a shorthanded penalty shot isn’t something you see every night. “I didn’t think anyone expected him to be on a breakaway like that,” Brandon Sutter said. “He did great.”
Killing the 5-on-3 was huge for the Penguins to halt the Wild’s momentum and Maatta’s penalty shot goal was the icing on the cake. “As the penalty kill is winding down, Olli comes out from the first one and he gets the puck,” Bylsma said. “Nonetheless, Olli with his mother’s first game in the stands, he gets a big night, couple assists (Had assist taken away), penalty shot goal.”
It was certainly a big night for Maatta who finished the game with a goal and assist in 21:46 of ice time. Overall it’s been an impressive stretch for the rookie in matching up against some of the NHL’s best talent in recent games.
“He’s getting Datsyuk, and getting Richards and Nash and Parise. That’s a tall order,” Bylsma said of Maatta’s workload. “The confidence and steadiness, consistency with which he’s played has been the best in the last three, four games.”
2. The Penguins offered Zach Parise a 12 year, $84 million contract in the summer of 2012 with the hopes that the chance to compete for a Stanley Cup every season and play on Sidney Crosby’s left wing would lure him to Pittsburgh. Parise had little interest in coming to Pittsburgh but at the end of the day, the Penguins have had the perfect winger for Crosby afterall.
Chris Kunitz continues to be quite a story in how he’s transformed into one of the NHL’s best left wingers over the last two years. Kunitz scored two goals tonight giving him 20 goals on the season and in his last 82 games, Kunitz has 41 goals – 46 assists – 87 points.
— 3. Matt Niskanen is making himself a lot of money whether it’s a team friendly deal here in Pittsburgh (something Penguins will explore) or elsewhere. A goal and assist night, Niskanen is now a plus-20 on the season and his defensive game is much improved this season.

4. The Penguins scored 49 seconds into the game and fast starts has been the theme of late. Bylsma felt that has been big with this group. “With this group with a good start, getting out to a lead, settles the group down…..keep playing forward, keep playing the right way,”Bylsma said.
5. Notes/Tidbits: Sidney Crosby had 2 assists extending his points streak to nine game……The Penguins were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill…..Jeff Zatkoff has won six games in a row becoming the first Penguins rookie to win six straight games since Johan Hedberg in 2001……Brandon Sutter has goals in consecutive games…….

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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