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3 Impressions: Pens 7, Wild 2

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Assistant coach Gary Agnew gives his three impressions from the bench of the Penguins’ 7-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

1. The Crosby line was outstanding tonight in a lot of areas. Obviously offensively, but defensively they played a good game. They were tracking back hard and getting great chances to go from defense to offense in transition. That’s hard on teams when you do that.
2. The third period was obviously a big period for the team. You’re in a battle with a team fighting for their playoff lives and are desperate obviously. We maintained our composure under heavy heat in the second period and did a good job in the third in scoring (four) goals.
3. Special teams were good tonight. Scored a goal and didn’t allow a goal. That’s all good.

Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box.

The Penguins didn’t get off to the greatest start in this game, and their goaltender bailed them out a lot of times to keep them in it. Marc-Andre Fleury was excellent, starting when he had to come up with a big save off an egregious defensive-zone turnover on one of the first shifts. From there, the Penguins were pinned in their own end for the next few minutes, and Fleury did his part to keep it a close game until his teammates found their legs and scored a couple goals in that opening period to pull away. Once they did get ahead, he continued to make a number of difficult saves – especially throughout the second – to preserve the lead before the floodgates broke open in the third when Brandon Sutter's goal made it 4-1. Though the score doesn't reflect it, it was most certainly a game until then, as the Wild created a lot of quality chances. They just couldn't convert them.

The Penguins went to the net and got rewarded for it. The bulk of their goals came from in or around the blue paint. That’s always fantastic to see, especially from this Penguins team, as they have a tendency to get caught up in trying to make fancy, pretty plays instead of rolling up their sleeves and going to work in the hard areas. But tonight, they didn’t hesitate to drive to the net and hunt down loose pucks, which is part of Pittsburgh’s grittier identity under this management group and coaching staff.

It looks like the power play is getting going, as the momentum generated by Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal in Montreal continued into tonight. It took the Penguins all of five seconds to convert their first opportunity. And while the Penguins didn’t score on their second one, the first unit had possession in the offensive zone for about 90 straight seconds out of 120 and looked absolutely terrific. Chris Kunitz was the perfect net-front presence, Crosby, Malkin and Letang just did what they do – working the puck to each other as three quarterbacks with aplomb and making gorgeous passes and plays – and Perron was a constant threat as that right-handed shot hovering in the slot.

BONUS: The Penguins scored a touchdown in this game and didn’t rely solely on Crosby and Malkin to do so (though those two did chip in, with three assists for 87 and two for 71 to move him into second place in the NHL scoring race). It felt like they got everyone involved except for Fleury, as six different players recorded a goal and 12 got on the scoresheet. And it all started with a big goal from the fourth line. The Pens were stuck in their zone for the first few minutes of play, but the momentum began to swing 6:16 in when Zach Sill set up Marcel Goc for his first career NHL point. It was huge to see every player involved, from the first line down to the defensemen.

NOTE: Forward Steve Downie left the game in the first period after getting elbowed in the head by Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and did not return. Penguins head coach Mike Johnston had no update on Downie after the game.

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