Penguins assistant coach Gary Agnew shares his three observations from the bench on Saturday’s 3-1 win against the New York Islanders at CONSOL Energy Center.
1. Special Teams
The penalty killing and the power play were outstanding. It won us the game, had a big part in it anyway.
Our defensive awareness and effort. You look at (Nick) Spaling’s blocked shot or ‘Geno’s’ dive in the second period to get the puck on an outnumbered rush. A lot of little defensive things we did, not a system thing, just individual and as a team, we got in lanes, blocked shots, boxed out in front of the net, we did a lot of good things in that area.
He played really well. Hung in there. He competed really hard, especially on those scrambles when there’s lots of action and guys are knocking you around. He hung in tough.
Sam Kasan shares his three impressions from the media level.
1. Turn Downie for What
It’s hard not to love Steve Downie’s game and what he’s brought to the Penguins. He’s injected an attitude and nastiness that has been missing from the Pittsburgh lineup since the original version of Matt Cooke. As the horn blew on the second period several players on both sides started yelling unpleasant words at each other, including Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. Downie quickly intervened and basically challenged the entire Islanders bench. It concluded with him and Kyle Okposo screaming at each other from the runways. In the third period Downie annihilated Frans Nielsen with a check in the corner. Right after Travis Hamonic went after Downie and the two sparred. After I was waiting for Downie to crack open a beer and shout, “And that’s the bottom line, because Steve Downie said so!”
The only negative was when he took an offensive zone penalty with four minutes left in the third period and the Penguins leading 2-1. But that’s the tradeoff with a fiery player like Downie.
2. Tenders Duel
Don’t let the 3-1 final score fool you. This was anything but a tight, low-scoring affair. Both teams combined for 73 shots on goal and nearly as many quality scoring chances. This was a case of two goaltenders standing on their heads.
New York’s Jaroslav Halak was his usual frustrating and goal-stealing self. Pittsburgh has been accustomed to his heroics from days gone by and he didn’t disappoint in tonight’s effort.
But Fleury was one goal better. He was highly alert and sharp, reacting quickly to shots. More impressive was his puck tracking on tips, screens and re-directed shots. He made several key stops where he had to readjust from his positioning to get a toe, pad or blocker on a shot.
3. Killin’ It
The Penguins penalty kill was much beleaguered entering the game, having surrendered six power-play goals on 15 times shorthanded. But they may have found their groove against an Islanders power play that was clicking at 42.9 percent entering the game. Pittsburgh finished the game a perfect 7-for-7.
The Penguins had to kill a 3-on-5 disadvantage for 1:26 minutes in the second period. Pittsburgh slammed the door shut, with a lot of help from Fleury.
But the Penguins’ biggest kill occurred with 3:58 minutes left in the third period and Pittsburgh clinging to a 2-1 lead. Although heart-racing scrums ensued in front of the crease, Fleury and the Pens stood their ground and slammed the door shut.