Evgeni Malkin’s (2) power-play goal 7:20 into the third period broke a 2-2 tie and the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-1-0, 10 pts) improved to 4-0 at home with a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Crosby had three assists, giving him 12 points on the season, and Pascal Dupuis (2) and Chris Kunitz (2) also scored for Pittsburgh. Marc Andre Fleury made 20 saves on 22 shots, improving to 5-0-0 on the season and Fleury has won 20 of his last 23 home starts.
For the Oilers, Ales Hemsky (2) and Jordan Eberle (2) scored second period goals, while Jason LaBarbera made 25 saves and gave up some iffy goals, struggling to control the puck at times.
Pittsburgh outshot Edmonton 28-22, and held a 15-4 edge in the first period.
X’S & O’S
After a sluggish first period, being outshot 15-4, the Edmonton Oilers played a strong game and really carried the play in the second period. The Oilers showed what teams like the Islanders and other quick skating/skilled teams have done to the Penguins in the past in getting the Penguins out of sync at times defensively and vulnerable to odd-man rushes.
Edmonton attempted 54 shots to Pittsburgh’s 49 but the Penguins again continue to show signs of being an improved shot blocking team and had 22 blocked shots tonight. Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen each led the team with 3 blocked shots.
A product of this is the new defensive zone structure implemented by the coaching the staff and Pittsburgh locking down defensively after Malkin’s power play goal in the third period was a positive against a skilled, fast skating Oilers team.
A top storyline out of this game was the Crosby line being a major matchup problem for the Oilers, most notably Sidney Crosby being a matchup problem for Edmonton all night, which isn’t a shocker.
The Penguins top line combined for 2 goals and 5 assists, with Sidney Crosby having three assists, and Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis each collecting a goal and assist in the win.
Dupuis put the Penguins on the board 3:08 into the game and the play started with a Sidney Crosby won faceoff and as the puck went around the boards, Crosby made a quick pass from behind the net to Dupuis in the right circle who scored from about 17 feet out.
What Kunitz, Crosby and Dupuis do so well is how they space the opposition out in the offensive zone and that’s what happened on this goal.
HOW THE PLAY DEVELOPED: On what is a set faceoff play, Crosby won the puck back to Paul Martin, beating Boyd Gordon on the draw, and Chris Kunitz immediately opened up in the slot and Martin made a quick pass to Kunitz in the slot who setup Dupuis for a one-timer opportunity in the right circle….
Dupuis’s shot attempt was blocked by Ladislav Smid but Dupuis got to the loose puck on the boards and sends it around the boards to Crosby behind the net and the key player here was Kunitz who goes to the net and the Oilers got caught running around a bit as Smid and Boyd Gordon each went to Kunitz leaving Dupuis alone for a split second and the puck wasn’t even on Crosby’s stick for a second as he quickly found Dupuis open for the goal.
The Crosby line would strike again, this time in the second period at a very important time when the Edmonton Oilers suddenly had momentum in the game and Chris Kunitz scored at the mid-mark of the period to put the Penguins up 2-1.
“Thought the goal in the second period was a big goal for us,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They were taking the play to us in the period, and we needed a big shift and got it from that line.”
Kunitz goal was more about poor puck control from Jason LaBarbera but the goal would not have happened without Sidney Crosby showing great footwork to control a pass while coming through the neutral zone with speed and Crosby kicked the puck up to this stick and moved the puck over Pascal Dupuis who threw the puck on net and LaBarbera fumbled the puck as Crosby and Kunitz both whacked at it and Kunitz was credited with the goal.
What we saw from Sidney Crosby tonight was a little bit of everything. On Dupuis goal, his Gretzky like vision, the Kunitz goal his all around play to showing his excellent ability in controlling the puck on Evgeni Malkin’s goal as he bounced off a check from Jeff Petry down low leading to the setup of the goal.
Crosby has 12 points through six games, averaging 2 points per game. Since the 2010-2011 season, a span of 105 games, Crosby has 171 points, averaging 1.63 points per game. No NHL player has produced a 130 point season since Mario Lemieux (169 pts) and Jaromir Jagr (149 pts) did so in 1995-1996. If Crosby can play close to 81-82 games, he could become that player.