Pittsburgh 4 – Chicago 2
PIT Goal Scorers:Steve Sullivan (1, PPG), Matt Cooke (2, SH), Joe Vitale (1), Evgeni Malkin (3, PPG)
CHI Goal Scorers:Brandon Pirri (2)
1. Kris Letang ( 2 Assists)
2. Brandon Pirri (2 Goals)
3. Steve Sullivan (1 goal – 1 assist)
Steve Sullivan, Matt Cooke, Joe Vitale and Evgeni Malkin scored, and the Pittsburgh Penguins held on to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 on Friday night to remain perfect in preseason play.
Brent Johnson stopped 35 shots for the Penguins (5-0-0).
Rookie Brandon Pirri scored two goals for the Blackhawks (2-3-1) and Ray Emery — competing for the backup job with rookie Alexander Salak, started and stopped 15 shots.
Sullivan, who signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent and was nursing a groin injury during training camp, also had an assist in his preseason debut.
Vitale made it 3-0 with about 7 1/2 minutes to go in the second period, sliding a loose puck between Emery’s left skate and the post.
Pirri’s power-play goal with 42 seconds left in the second cut it to 3-1. He pulled Chicago within a goal midway through the third as he took a pass from Bryan Bickell in front of the crease and spun a backhand shot past Johnson.
Malkin fired a power-play goal into an empty net with 42 seconds remaining to complete the scoring.
Sullivan made it 1-0 on a power-play goal with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the first period as his screened shot from the top of the left circle slipped past Emery on the stick side.
Emery’s clearing pass set up a short-handed goal by Pittsburgh Matt Cooke at 7:19 of the second. Emery came far out of the net to fire the puck away from onrushing Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis, and banked the it off the boards to center ice. The puck landed on Cooke’s stick and he fired it from the red line into an empty net before Emery could get back.
Post-Game Observations & Buzz
*The Penguins were 2-for-3 on the power play and are now 7-for-19 in the preseason, clicking at 36.8%. Those are numbers Penguin fans haven’t seen for years.
Steve Sullivan made his presence on the power play playing the top of left circle, blasting one past Emery in the first period. That play is going to be there a lot for Sullivan, a spot the Penguins are intrigued about him.
Due to his erratic shot, Kris Letang playing the center point is a much more viable spot for him than over on the left point.
*Joe Vitale has done everything he could to win the No. 4 center spot, playing another strong game Friday night. He was excellent on the forecheck.
Vitale has not only outperformed Richard Park for that 4th line spot, but has also been much more effective than Mark Letestu in camp. The Penguins as a I mentioned a few days ago, have not been pleased with Letestu’s play in camp and there are concerns about his long-term spot with the team, once Sidney Crosby returns.
The Penguins don’t see Letestu as a viable 4th line center.
*The team appears to be going away from Richard Park as a centerman. He replaced Arron Asham in the lineup who was ill and skated on the third line at right wing.
*The Penguins feel that enforcer Steve MacIntyre has a much better skating presence than Eric Godard and feel from a skating standpoint, he won’t be a big liability defensively, like Godard was in years past.
*1st rounder Joe Morrow looked like an 18 year old defensively at some points in the game. He was getting himself out of position and making bad reads, looking confused (at times).
Pittsburgh is now 5-0 in the preseason and is attempting to finish the preseason without a loss for just the second time in club history (2008-09, 4-0-1). That year the Penguins went on to win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup in a seven-game defeat of the Detroit Red Wings.