The Pittsburgh Penguins are doing their best to dispel the concept of a Stanley Cup hangover.
The defending NHL champions continued their early-season winning ways with a dominant 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
The Penguins improved to 8-1-0, the best record in the NHL, while completely controlling play throughout the game. Tyler Kennedy, Evgeni Malkin, Ruslan Fedotenko, Matt Cooke and Alex Goligoski all scored for Pittsburgh, which outshot the Blues 43-23 and had 13 of its 18 skaters earn at least one point.
"When our four lines are going and everybody's clicking and playing well together, we can be a tough team to beat," defenseman Jay McKee said. "I think most teams, probably for good reasons, focus on Sidney (Crosby) and Geno (Malkin), and I think that's playing to our advantage. We're not just getting production from them; it's everybody."
Marc-Andre Fleury improved his record to 8-0-0 by making 21 saves.
The only down note for the Penguins was that All-Star defenseman Sergei Gonchar didn't play over the final 27 minutes because of an undisclosed injury. Coach Dan Bylsma said Gonchar would be evaluated Wednesday.
The Blues, who were coming off a 5-0 win at Anaheim on Saturday, never had a chance.
The Penguins took them out of the game early, outshooting St. Louis 20-3 in the opening period and scoring twice for a 2-0 lead.
"For us not to be ready to play the defending Stanley Cup champions is unacceptable," goalie Chris Mason said after his team fell to 1-3-1 in their last five games. "We come off a good second and third period in Anaheim against a very good team. I don't know if we're getting a little ahead of ourselves and getting a little cocky and thinking that it should be easier than it really is. ... To come out like we did against these guys, this is what's going to happen."
Kennedy opened the scoring at 11:19 on the Penguins' 10th shot, coming off the left boards into the circle and beating Mason with a rising slap shot from about 20 feet for his fifth goal of the season.
Andy McDonald took a high-sticking penalty at 11:09, and the Penguins needed less than a half-minute to capitalize. The Penguins controlled the puck and kept firing away until Malkin would up with the puck 15 feet away in the slot and beat Mason to the top corner. It was one of 12 shots for Malkin, who made life miserable for the Blues all night long.
"Right from the get-go, when you don't have the energy or the legs, it means you're reaching with your sticks so you're doing things you shouldn't be doing," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "Obviously with the shots -- total domination by Pittsburgh -- it was pretty clear to see such a drop-off and it is difficult to understand why we didn't have legs or energy."
"When our four lines are going and everybody's clicking and playing well together, we can be a tough team to beat. I think most teams, probably for good reasons, focus on Sidney (Crosby) and Geno (Malkin), and I think that's playing to our advantage. We're not just getting production from them; it's everybody." -- Jay McKee
Fedotenko and Cooke made it 4-0 with goals 36 seconds apart in the second period. Fedotenko beat Mason from the right circle, just above the faceoff dot, at 7:39, and Cooke deflected Kris Letang's blast from the left point into the net at 8:05.
"To be able to come out and play the way that we did no matter who we're playing against is a good feeling," Cooke said.
Paul Kariya's tip-in at 12:54 of the second ended Fleury's shutout bid. But the Penguins kept the pedal to the metal, outshooting the Blues 15-8 in the middle period for a 35-11 margin after 40 minutes.
Goligoski added his second of the season at 9:44 of the second against Ty Conklin, who replaced Mason after two periods. The young defenseman leaked in from the right point to the middle of the circle and fired a perfect pass from Crosby into the far corner.
The Penguins, who had to scramble down the stretch to make the playoffs before running the table on the way to the Cup, are playing like a team that wants to lock up a postseason berth early and improve from there.
"It's a good feeling how well this team's playing right now," Fleury said. "I'm sure (a loss) will come, but hopefully we can keep it going."
--John Kreiser, NHL.com
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|Tyler Kennedy (5) ASST: Jay McKee (2), Matt Cooke (3)|
1 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Evgeni Malkin (4) ASST: Bill Guerin (3), Sergei Gonchar (6)|
2 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Ruslan Fedotenko (2) ASST: Kris Letang (4), Mark Eaton (2)|
3 - 0 PIT
|Matt Cooke (2) ASST: Kris Letang (5), Jordan Staal (2)|
4 - 0 PIT
|Paul Kariya (4) ASST: Erik Johnson (7), Patrik Berglund (1)|
4 - 1 PIT
|Alex Goligoski (2) ASST: Sidney Crosby (4), Chris Kunitz (5)|
5 - 1 PIT
|David Perron Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Andy McDonald Hi-sticking against Brooks Orpik|
|Sidney Crosby Slashing against David Backes|
|David Backes Roughing against Sidney Crosby|
|Keith Tkachuk Too many men/ice - bench|
|David Perron Cross checking against Ruslan Fedotenko|
|Evgeni Malkin Too many men/ice - bench|
|Sidney Crosby Holding against Paul Kariya|