That is the Penguins winning recipe right now after winning for the fifth time in six games following a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals tonight.
The Penguins have found a way under Mike Johnston to play such a low quality brand of offensive hockey it somehow leads to the opposition playing a lower quality brand of hockey, at least in the offensive end.
Look at the New York Rangers in their first round series vs the Penguins. They were one of the highest scoring teams in hockey last season, yet, that series arguably had the most boring brand of offensive hockey of any other playoff series, despite great talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Rick Nash on the ice.
Tonight was no different between the Penguins and Capitals. There are many great low scoring NHL games, this one didn’t fall into that category.
The Penguins boring style bored the Capitals it seemed.
Yet, tonight there was a glimmer of hope as the Capitals fell asleep at the wheel for a three to four minute stretch in the third and the Penguins made them pay.
The Penguins fell behind 1-0 just 1:28 into the third period and it figured to be a game where the Capitals started to crack the Penguins and would just wear them down the rest of the way.
Something happened, though, the Penguins started attacking, sprung Beau Bennett on a stretch pass who scored off the rush on his own rebound to tie the game at 1:52 of the period and on Pittsburgh’s next shot of the period, Phil Kessel would put the Penguins ahead 2-1, just a 1:57 later.
After the Kessel goal at 3:49 of the period, the Penguins didn’t record another shot for over 13 minutes until the 17:46 mark of the period, a Kessel shot, their 6th shot of the period and the 7th and final shot of the period for the Penguins was an empty net goal by Nick Bonino.
The Penguins survived a Capitals late charge but limited Washington to just seven shots in the period, and got a good team win as there was a strong commitment in the third to playing a 200 ft game. The forwards were excellent in providing back pressure through the neutral zone.
What many are likely wondering after this one is whether that early stretch in the third where Pittsburgh scored twice and on back-to-back shots is going to be a sign of things to come in how this team is going to play moving forward?
Based on what transpired after, no shots in 13:57, most likely not.
We’ve also seen this story before where the Penguins get a couple goals in bunches.
Penguins 2-0 win vs Ottawa, Daniel Sprong and Evgeni Malkin scored 2:02 apart.
Penguins 2-1 win vs Toronto, Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta scored 39 seconds apart.
Penguins tonight vs Washington, Beau Bennett and Phil Kessel scored 1:57 apart.
Maybe this is who the Penguins are now, defensive minded team systematically that will need great goaltending and timely scoring in bunches to be a real threat in the East.
Mike Johnston talked all of last season from January on till the post-season of how the Penguins needed to learn how to play tight, close scoring games.
What we’ve seen during this winning stretch is how the coaching staff wants to play things. Play a conservative defensive brand of hockey, get excellent goaltending and hope to get a timely goal or two.
This is most likely going to be the Penguins identity under this coaching staff.
It’s a winning recipe when you get the type of spectacular goaltending the Penguins are getting from Marc Andre Fleury who continues to play at a level where you’re only going to score with a perfect shot or a fluke shot bouncing off skates or bodies.
However, needing great goaltending to hide a lot of cracks is why this season is going to be such a roller coaster and already has been.