EDMONTON, Alberta – After a six-day road trip through Western Canada with stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, the Penguins returned home to Pittsburgh in the early Monday morning hours with five of a possible six points (2-0-1) in their pocket.
It was a taxing trip to three cities, two times zones and back-to-back games to finish. No doubt a rough way to start the season. But the Penguins can hold their heads high for overcoming a difficult terrain and almost walking away with a perfect record.
“It’s a tough way to start the year on the Canadian west trip,” goaltender Brent Johnson
said. “I thought we played well all three games. … Five out of six points is definitely a good trip.”
The Penguins’ hopes of collecting all six points on the road trip were dashed by the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout Sunday night at Rexall Place. But the shootout loss combined with a 4-3 shootout win at Vancouver and 5-3 triumph at Calgary gives Pittsburgh a 2-0-1 start to the season.
“That’s pretty good when you think about facing three teams in their opening games,” defenseman Kris Letang
said. “We wanted to finish with six points. We came up short tonight. We had our chance but overall we can keep our head up.”
The Penguins secured one point against the Oilers in part because of the superb goaltending of Brent Johnson
, who stopped 34 of 35 Oilers shots – including a couple of breath takers.
“Johnny was great,” winger James Neal
said. “He came up with big saves at crucial points in the third period when we needed them. Ever since I’ve been here he’s come in and done a great job when he’s gotten the chance.”
“I felt good right from the go. The guys played great in front of me. I basically saw every shot," Johnson said. "When the guys play like that in front of you they make it easy on the goalie to make saves. I congratulate our forwards and our D for a job well done.”
The Penguins return home for their home opener at CONSOL Energcy Center Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers. They’ll play three straight home contests this week vs. Florida, Washington (Thursday) and Buffalo (Saturday).
And even though they won’t return with six points, head coach Dan Bylsma said that five out of six ain’t bad:
“I certainly like five out of six. I like getting some wins in some tough places, three out of four nights. We played a lot of hockey and I think it showed. A lot of guys got taxed in different games and different minutes. We’re going home with five points on the board. We’re going home for our home opener now.”