Monday, December 6, 2010

Game 29: Pens 2, Devils 1

Who said wins need to be pretty....

Penguins- 2
-Chris Kunitz (Crosby, Dupuis) 1-15:41
-Sidney Crosby (Goligoski, Kunitz) 2-12:49
W- Fleury (27-28)

Devils- 1
-Brian Rolston (Arnott, Tedenby) 1-14:20
L- Hedberg (32-34)

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the Pens' 10 game winning streak (or at least the recent games) has been their commanding offensive firepower and ability to blaze opposing goaltenders right out of the saddle. That didn't quite happen with Johan Hedberg tonight. But instead the Pens showed grit and toughness and proved that they can also win the "dirty" games en route to a 2-1 victory over the division rival Devils.

After a "not much happening" start to the game, the Pens found themselves with some digging to do. Brian Rolston poked one in after the puck perfectly bounced right to his feet leaving him with an empty net. It didn't take much longer than a minute to respond, however, when Chris Kunitz slapped in a Crosby pass. Sid certainly turned on the afterburners on that play, and somehow managed to kick the puck from the back of his skate to his stick without losing a step.

The 2nd started out with some big time checks being thrown on both sides, but almost reached a boiling point when Brian Rolston took a run at Paul Martin behind the goal. It was actually quite scary to watch because Martin was incredibly close to some serious knee damage due to the way he landed into the boards. Crosby put the Pens ahead midway through the period with a soft little chip in over Hedberg's glove after picking the rebound up off of Hedberg's pads. Then it was time to buckle down and hold that lead.

3rd period: Lots of hitting, good penalty killing, and solid goaltending. Hedberg and Fleury both did their jobs. The Pens penalty killers came up huge twice, once in the beginning of the period and once in the middle. Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves with David Clarkson. Engelland seemed to be landing the majority of the punches before both men slipped to the ice. Kovalchuk was a non-factor all game, and in fact the most useful thing he did all game for the Devs was volunteering to serve Rolston's penalty in the 2nd.

*NOTE* There was also a special pre-game ceremony celebrating the retirement of Billy Guerin as a Penguin. Extended coverage of that event can be found on the Penguins official site.

Game Changing Play:
Fleury came up huge twice late in the game with a nice poke check and then a great glove save on Zubrus.


Offense: B Hedberg was really good, but the Pens' top line was just a little better.

Defense: A Made Kovalchuk look like an AHLer and essentially shut down the rest of New Jeresy's offense.

Fleury: A The lone goal of the game was hardly his fault, and he was money from there on.

Powerplay: C Squandered quite a few chances to pull away (including an extended 5 on 3). They were moving the puck well but just didn't look like the newly improved Pens powerplay that was starting to show itself.

Penalty Kill: B+ Gave up the early goal, but did their job when it counted.

-3 Big Points:

-Chris Kunitz has been playing the best hockey of his career this year on Sid's wing, and it is really showing up on his stats. The same can also be said for Dupuis, but Kunitz has been Sid's "go to guy" on the top line.

-Have to give a shoutout to the 4th line today. Rupp and Adams were 2 men on a mission and even Eric Godard came out to play hockey. In my opinion, Godard has played 2 of his best games ever in a Pens uni against the Jackets and Devils.

-Evgeni Malkin missed his 2nd straight game with an injury. It didn't seem to be a problem on Saturday, but the absence of that 2nd dynamic forward to complement Sid was certainly felt tonight. Get well very soon Geno.

My 3 Stars:

1. Sidney Crosby
2. Chris Kunitz
3. Marc-Andre Fleury

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