Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet gives his three impressions from the bench of the Penguins’ 4-1 win against Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center.
1. The game of Thomas Greiss. It’s hard when you don’t play a lot of games and activity. For him to come in and really give us two good games this season. This is a tough team and he played really well.
2. For the most part we had the game in check. We were really good in the first two periods. In the third we let our foot off the pedal and Minnesota got back in. That’s a lesson we have to definitely learn, to play with the lead.
3. The third line (of) (Brandon) Sutter, (Nick) Spaling and (Steve) Downie with offensive contributions. They played well tonight.
Sam Kasan gives his three takeaways from the press box.
1. 5-on-5 play
The Minnesota Wild entered the game as the best even-strength team in hockey. Despite scoring only two power-play goals all year, they ranked third in the league in scoring and first overall in defense. The Penguins’ offense, which ranks first in the NHL, relied heavily on their top-ranked power play. So logic was that the Wild would win the 5-on-5 battle and the Pens would win the special teams battle.
But the Pens were the better team at even-strength, beating the Wild at their own game. It was a tight contest with both teams clamping down in the neutral zone defensively. The difference was Pittsburgh’s tenacious forecheck. Once in the offensive zone, the Penguins were too much to handle for the Wild. It wore the Wild down, and at times all Minnesota could do was get the puck out. Pittsburgh was able to turn two Wild turnovers into goals and finished a plus-2 at even strength.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo made his season debut against the Wild. He has missed every regular-season game this year after suffering a lower-body injury in training camp. Bortuzzo started the game by adding his nasty physical presence, unloading a heavy check into Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund. He finished the game with 13:46 ice time, two blocked shots and two hits.
“I feel good,” Bortuzzo said. “I was sucking wind in the first period, but got my legs under me. It was fun to get out there and contribute to a win.”
3. The Streak
The Penguins can be scored upon. It’s hard to remember what that’s like. The last time the Penguins surrendered a goal was in the second period of their 8-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 28 (a week ago). The streak was snapped on Nino Niederreiter’s shorthanded goal. The shutout streak lasted 205:28 minutes. Pittsburgh scored 18 straight goals during that stretch, tying for the most in the league since the 2000-01 season (Phoenix/Arizona).