Pittsburgh 2 – Carolina 1 (SO)
The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to three games, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins snapped a four game home losing streak and their big guns led the way once again as Evgeni Malkin scored his 22nd goal of the season and also scored in the shootout, while James Neal netted the shootout winner.
Marc Andre Fleury made 25 saves to earn his 22nd win of the season,
Pittsburgh came out of the gates sloppy and Carolina’s Jamie McBain scored 2:11 into the game for the Hurricanes. “First ten minutes, we were a little sloppy, ” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. They come hard, that team is better then their record indicates”.
For much of the first period, the Penguins were sluggish offensively and their best line was the 4th line unit of Eric Tangradi – Joe Vitale and Craig Adams. That soon changed when Evgeni Malkin scored with a 1:22 left in the first period, roofing a beautiful shot past Cam Ward’s glove side to tie the game at 1-1. For the second straight game it was another momentum changing game as Pittsburgh controlled the play for much of the game afterwards. Cam Ward though was excellent making 40 saves in the loss.
Malkin who’s as entertaining as they come, said his goal was a lucky one. “It’s pretty lucky goal because puck bounced softly and I just picked it up, and it’s close to breakaway….and i shoot high, ” Malkin said.
Malkin was pleased with his team’s effort. “Team played very well, everyone played hard.”
Malkin with 52 points on the season, is tied for first in the league and he’s re-emerged as one of the premier players in the game. Two important areas standout for Malkin right now:
His ability to put the puck in the net is resembling his once 47 goal season in 2007-2008 and this might be the most complete hockey Malkin is playing in his career.
“Maybe I would joust for the playoffs in 09, certainly played great in Carolina series and Detroit, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said when asked if this is the best Malkin’s played since the 09 Cup run. ” But, I think in terms of regular season and playing offensively, playing with the puck, playing defensively and face-offs, he’s getting lion share of responsibilities right now in a lot of areas and is playing outstanding, ” Bylsma said.
Coming off ACL surgery that requires close to 12 months for players to be 100 percent and dealing with knee soreness to open the season, according to one teammate, it’s scary to think that Malkin hasn’t even peaked yet.
‘Everyone you talk to says ACL takes 12 months to recover, so if this isn’t 100% for him, pretty scary, ” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.”
While the Penguins don’t know the long-term future of Sidney Crosby as he tries to battle back from concussion like symptoms, this could slowly be developing into Evgeni Malkin’s team.
— Brooks Orpik admitted after the game that the ref apologized to him for calling an interference penalty on a Jeff Skinner hit that left Skinner dazed andÂ out of itÂ for a few seconds. Skinner who recently returned from a concussion, did return and finish the game. “They’re doing the best they can, ” Orpik said of the refs. “Happens very fast. “Tough to fault those guys what happens in real time.”
— Dan Bylsma’s take on the call: “I haven’t seen the reply, but told he touched puck as Brooks was hitting him which would indicate it’s not interference”. Orpik did not deliver a blow to the head by any means and this shouldn’t be looked by the league.”
— Even Evgeni Malkin gave his take on the hit: “I think it’s clean because we seen replay slowly and Skinner touched puck before hit. When you see replay, it’s clean, ” Malkin said.
— The question after the game is why Skinner was allowed back on the ice. Hopefully his situation doesn’t become similar to Kris Letang. Skinner said afterwards that he was evaluated by one of the Pens team doctors prior to returning to the game, according to Chip Alexander.
— The Penguins top line of Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin and James Neal have emerged as one of the best lines in hockey and what makes them unique in the eyes of Bylsma is how difficult they are to play against. “When they’re playing like that, they score goals on the forecheck, have a physical aspect to them, ” Bylsma said of Kunitz/Malkin/Neal. “They have speed and with Geno’s abilities to play both physically and with the puck, it’s tough to totally keep them away from the puck and away from the offensive zone. They play physical, they play with the puck, they’ve been smart with it, and they play well defensively which allows them to play in the offensive zone as well. It’s a tough matchup anyway you look at it, and that’s a challenge when you’re playing against our team and that line.”
— While Dan Bylsma and Brooks Orpik were among those saying this is the best Evgeni Malkin is playing since 2009, Matt Cooke isn’t ready to say that yet. “I don’t know, ” Cooke said when asked if this is the best Malkin’s playing. “I saw him playing pretty well in 09. I don’t think I would say it’s the best, ” Cooke said.
— Paul Martin recorded his 200th career point, assisting on Malkin’s goal. Tonight, Martin should be remembered for missing a point blank chance early on, the type of play he has to start scoring on.
— Joe Vitale returned to the lineup in place of Arron Asham and had 4 hits (tied for team-high) in the game and dropped the gloves with Tim Brent in the third period. Vitale had 8:07 of ice time and was 3 of 7 in the faceoff circle.
— Brooks Orpik led the team with with 26:39 of ice time. Eric Tangradi saw the least amount of ice time, logging 7:36 of ice time….Evgeni Malkin and James Neal had 6 shots each.
— The Penguins who fell out of the top-8 last week, moved up to 7th in the Eastern Conference with 52 points.