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Insider Only Post-Game Observations: Pens do it all in impressive 4-2 win

Pittsburgh 4 – Minnesota 2

PIT Goal Scorers: Chris Kunitz (1), Jordan Staal (3, PP), James Neal (6), Pascal Dupuis (2, SH)
MIN Goal Scorers:Cal Clutterbuck (2), Guillaume Latendresse (1)
Goaltending Matchup:PIT Brent Johnson (24 Saves on 26 Shots) | MIN Niklas Backstrom (21 Saves on 25 shots
Three Stars
1. Brent Johnson – 24 Saves
2. Cal Clutterbuck – 1 Goal, 8 Hits
3. Jordan Staal – 1 Goal, 21:45 TOI, 8 of 16 on Face Offs

Post-Game Observations

Pens Do It All in Victory: The Penguins undermanned, did it all in Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild. Pittsburgh went 5-for-5 on the PK, scored shorthanded and on the power play, and got excellent goaltending from Brent Johnson who played the final eight or nine minutes on a bad right leg after Matt Niskanen slid into him.
The Penguins playing their 8th game in 13 days, improved to 4-2-2 on the season in what was a gutsy  and deserved win as they outplayed Minnesota for most of the night. The team played without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey and lost Brian Strait in the second period, playing some of the second and entire third period with five defenseman.
Zbynek Michalek (29:20) and Paul Martin (29:04) each logged over 29 minutes of ice.
While the Penguins played with five defensemen after the Strait injury, they basicially played with 11 forwards tonight as enforcer Steve MacIntyre had 1 shift and 23 seconds of ice time.
Impressive play away from the “puck”: What was very impressive with the Penguins play tonight was their play away from the puck. Two prime examples was Joe Vitale on James Neal’s goal and Matt Cooke on Pascal Dupuis shorthanded marker in the third.
Little things like that will keep Vitale in the NHL and Cooke continues to show his value as a complete player with excellent play on the PK and 6 points through 8 games.
Neal scoring goal scorers goals: James Neal continues to shine, scoring his 6th goal of the season with yet another goal scorers goal. His overall game is also evolving as he’s a force on the forecheck and has played very well away from the puck.
Neal’s goal 3:38 into the third period was a decisive goal giving Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.
“Asham, Neal and Vitale get the goal at the start of the third period and it was a huge goal for us, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Aggressiveness on PK overwhelms Wild: Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to break the game wide open and Pittsburgh locked down on the PK. The Penguins came in prepared and they focused on taking lanes away especially in the middle of the slot where Danny Heatley was setting up.
Pittsburgh’s ability to get sticks in the lanes frustrated Minnesota and they gave the Wild little breathing room on the power play.
Pittsburgh has now killed 26 of 27 penalties this season.
Rehabbing: Sidney Crosby, Dustin Jeffrey, Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik all remained in Pittsburgh rehabbing their injuries during the Penguins two game road trip. Head coach Dan Bylsma told reporters on Tuesday he may have one injured player back for Thursday.
It surely won’t be Sidney Crosby. Defenseman Brooks Orpik is close to rejoining his teammates for practice.
On Tap:The Penguins are off on Wednesday and host the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night at the Consol Energy Center.
Tidbits
*All four Penguin centermen were 50% or better in the face-off circle:
Richard Park won 13 of 21 draws (59.1%); Jordan Staal won 8 of 16 draws (50.0%); Joe Vitale won 8 of 13 draws (61.5%); Mark Letestu won 6 of 11 draws (54.5%).
*For the 39th time in their last 43 games, the Penguins played without both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The team is 21-13-5 in those 39 games.
*The Penguins improved to 14-4-4 against the Western Conference since the 2010-2011 season. They are an impressive 8-2-3 in road games against the West during that span.
*Head Coach Dan Bylsma improved to 63-29-8 on the road as Penguins head coach. Bylsma can now scratch the Minnesota Wild off his list of teams he never beat. The lone team he hasn’t beat remains the San Jose Sharks.

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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