Penguins assistant coach Gary Agnew gives his three impressions from the bench following the Penguins’ 4-3 shootout win against the Jets at MTS Centre.
1. The third line did a lot to get the game going in the right direction, both from a scoring standpoint, physical standpoint, played the right way. That’s two games in a row where they’ve been a huge impact on our team.
2. The play of Rob Scuderi was outstanding. He was a guy that killed penalties and played against their top guys. He was a steady influence when things were getting hairy and when the emotion of the game got cranked up.
3. You have to go with the goalie again, have to go with Marc-Andre (Fleury). He made some huge saves, particularly late in the game when they were on the power play. He competed hard in the crease, he was getting bumped around and hung in there. He did a really good job.
Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box.
The Penguins third line accounted for two of the team’s three goals. The trio of Nick Spaling-Brandon Sutter-Steve Downie have played together for the majority of the season and have shouldered many of the defensive responsibilities – going head-to-head with opposing team’s top players. But they’ve also been able to chip in offensively to help balance out the Penguins’ attack. Sutter finished the night with one goal and three points, while Downie added a goal and assist. On a night when Pittsburgh’s top two lines were held scoreless, it was the third line that wore the cape.
“I felt from the first shift when Sutter’s line hit the ice tonight, they had a good shift off the bat,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “They took advantage of their scoring opportunities tonight and that was huge.”
The Pens and Jets are not a natural rivalry. But a few more games like tonight’s and it could be as good as it gets. The physicality was off the charts, and the play was downright dirty at times with three-and-a-half fights and a lot of post-whistle scrums. Downie and Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien took a particular disliking to each other. Byfuglien knocked Downie to the ice after he scored Pittsburgh’s third goal. The two sat in the box. They reconvened their friendship in the third period and both were given 10-minute misconducts in the third period. The game featured a total of 30 penalties for 102 minutes.
“Both teams stuck up for each other and made sure they were there for their teammates,” Sidney Crosby said. “For the most part we stayed with it and kept playing.”
3. Special Teams
It was going to be an interesting contest between the Penguins’ No. 1 power play against the Jets’ No. 4 penalty kill. Pittsburgh had five man-advantage chances, including a 5-on-3, but failed to convert. That’s been a rarity for the Penguins’ power play, which had been clipping at over 40 percent for much of the season. Not to be outdone, Pittsburgh’s penalty kill unit held the fort in the final two minutes of regulation and the final two minutes of overtime and preserve the win. The Penguins have killed 34 straight penalties.
“That’s a tough situation when you get penalized late in the game in a building that loud and they have some guys that can put the puck in the net,” Sutter said. “To get a couple blocks from guys and squeak that one out, get into a shootout, was a good test for us and a big builder.”