Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 5-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
1. BETTER START
It looked like it was going to yet another slow start for the Pens, as Carolina had them pinned in their own end for the first couple of minutes and were just firing puck after puck at Marc-Andre Fleury’s net. But after Olli Maatta scored a beautiful goal off on an offensive-zone faceoff, the switch flipped and the Pens were dominant the rest of the way. The ice completely tilted in Pittsburgh’s favor and they were fun to watch with the way they held onto the puck and moved it amongst the group on the ice. It was definitely much better watching the Pens protect a lead instead of trying to beat one, and the best part is they never took their foot off the gas.
2. SPECIAL TEAMS
Special teams have been the story of this series so far, and tonight, the Pens were the winners of that matchup. After a couple of rough games, Pittsburgh’s penalty kill bounced back with an impressive night. They denied all four Carolina power plays, including 43 seconds of 5-on-3 time in the second period. The skaters did a tremendous job of battling, and when the Canes did get their chances, Fleury was there with the big save. Then down at the other end, the Pens’ top power-play unit gained, held and worked the zone. They did pass up a few too many shots – at one point, Sidney Crosby had Eddie Lack down on his belly and completely out while standing at the side of the net with the puck – but the captain remedied that in their third chance.
The Pens’ bottom-six forward group did a heck of a job tonight. A lot of them really stood out, Kevin Porter and Tom Kuhnhackl in particular. Porter’s legs were really going in this game and he used that to be effective on both the PK and even-strength. He also made a pretty play to set up Conor Sheary for a big goal. After playing just 3:37 in his first game back after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the winger bounced back with a huge tally to give the Pens a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Kuhnhackl was also skating really well and did a tremendous job of getting in on the forecheck and separating guys from the puck with big hits. Overall, it was a tremendous group effort from the forwards as Crosby scored twice and Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist each recorded two assists.