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Aftermath: Canucks 3, Penguins 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

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The Penguins have played well from behind this season. They’ve managed comeback victory after comeback victory. However, they ran out of time and luck on Saturday against Vancouver. The Canucks play a tight trapping system and every goal is huge. Pittsburgh had an uphill climb when it fell down 2-0. They showed some life in the third period with an early goal, but couldn’t overcome the deficit. The Penguins can’t expect to win every game that they fall behind in. Pittsburgh had a number of chances to score, but just couldn't find a way to score. They played with fire all month and finally got burned.
Pavol Demitra continued his recent hot streak by netting two goals in a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena on Saturday. Demitra scored his sixth goal of the season late in the first period to give Vancouver the lead, 1-0. Daniel Sedin gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead with his ninth goal of the year at 6:50 of the second period. Mike Zigomanis got Pittsburgh on the board with a score 22 seconds into the third period. Demitra sealed the game with an empty-netter for his seventh score of the season.

The game started with a bang when 48 penalty minutes were dished out in the first 25 seconds. Matt Cooke, playing against his former team for the first time, was ejected after getting in a fight with a few Canucks. Both teams showed a tempered dislike and racked up 98 combined penalty minutes in the game.

Canucks All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo was replaced less than five minutes into the game when he suffered a lower-body injury. 

Matt Cooke levels Alexander Edler with a hip check (Pittsburgh Penguins)
What Worked: Start of the Periods
The Penguins set the tone with a physical skirmish 25 seconds into the game. Matt Cooke threw a huge hip check into Alexander Edler and a mass fight broke out. The Canucks were flustered and couldn’t get their trap set in the early going. The Penguins had chances but couldn't convert. Pittsburgh opened the third period with a goal from Mike Zigomanis and kept the pressure on Vancouver. However, despite some golden opportunities they never managed to get that tying goal.

What Didn't Work: Power Play
The Penguins had the most difficulty in trying to gain the zone on their power plays. Vancouver used three men at the blue line and sent the high attacker to pressure the puck. Pittsburgh was stood up at the blue line and forced to dump the puck. Other than a couple early power plays, the Penguins were never able to gain possession or get set in the attacking zone. Pittsburgh went 0 for 4 with the man-advantage.
Mike Zigomanis scored his second goal of the year and centered a line with Tyler Kennedy and Eric Godard. Head coach Michel Therrien said that the trio was the best combination in the game. Zigomanis had the puck down low early in the third period. He skated a little high and caught Canucks goalie Curtis Sanford cheating a little. Zigomanis sent a quick shot towards the near post that eluded Sanford. He had another great chance with a one-timer in the slot. Zigomanis was his usual dominant self in the faceoff circle, winning 67 percent of his draws with an 8-for-12 effort and logged 17:24 minutes of ice time.
Matt Cooke’s first game against the team he played eight-plus seasons for ended in 25 seconds. He was ejected from the game after a brawl ensued in the game’s opening minute. The skirmish originated from a hip check on Alexander Edler, courtesy of Cooke in the Vancouver zone. Jannik Hansen went after Cooke and the two traded barbs until Canuck Alex Burrows grabbed Cooke from behind. Brooks Orpik rushed to Cooke’s aid and started fighting Burrows. Cooke tangled with Hansen and Tyler Kennedy went toe-to-toe with Ryan Kesler. When it was all said and done, 48 minutes in penalties were distributed and both Cooke and Hansen were give game misconducts and sent to the locker room.

Vancouver’s All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo left the game with 15:06 left in the first period. He dropped down in the butterfly style and couldn’t get back on his feet. Luongo rolled over and trainers came on the ice to assist him. Teammates helped him skate off the ice. The early diagnosis is a lower-body injury. Backup Curtis Sanford came in to replace him. Sanford had a scare when Jordan Staal was knocked into him. Sanford went down and was slow to get up. I don’t know who the emergency goaltender is, but I’m sure he was sweating a little bit while Sanford was down. Thankfully, Sanford was OK.

The Penguins had the upper hand early in the first period. Vancouver wasn’t getting to its trap positions and was caught skating around on the ice. With the early rumble and number of ensuing power plays, the Canucks couldn’t get into the flow of the game. Pittsburgh took advantage by getting a number of quality scoring chances. The Penguins were getting to the right spots and Vancouver looked a little confused at times.

The Canucks got into a groove while killing a late penalty to Edler. Finally, Vancouver got into their neutral zone trap positions. Vancouver dropped three players to the blue line and had one attacker high to pressure the Penguin-puck carrier. The system forced Pittsburgh to dump the puck. Two of the three Cancuks blue-line men would peel off to get to the puck. The second man ran a little interference on the Penguin in pursuit while the other Canuck collected the puck and played it out of the zone. As a result, Pittsburgh didn’t register a shot and never setup its attack on that power play. After that penalty, the Canucks settled down and stuck to their trapping system.

Vancouver registered the game’s opening goal with another fluke score. Alex Goligoski was in front of the net with Pavol Demitra bearing down. Henrik Sedin took a shot on goal that Goligoski stopped but couldn’t control. Demitra took a swipe and the puck popped over top of Dany Sabourin and landed on the opposite side the crease. Demitra spun around the net to get another chance. Sabourin came sliding over from the other post and the puck deflected off of his body and into the net.

With Cooke out and the Penguins’ offense stagnant, head coach Michel Therrien re-assembled his lines. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby were paired on the top line with Maxime Talbot/Miroslav Satan. Staal centered the second line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Petr Sykora. Staal double-shifted as the center between Pascal Dupuis and Satan/Talbot. Mike Zigomanis worked with Tyler Kennedy and Eric Godard.

The Canucks took a 2-0 lead on a great individual effort by Daniel Sedin. His twin brother, Henrik, took a faceoff in the Penguins zone. Neither Henrik nor Crosby won the faceoff. With both men tied up, Daniel stole the puck from the red dot. He then skated around the low defenseman, Kris Letang, and back into the crease. His initial shot was stopped by Sabourin. Brooks Orpik tried to pick up Daniel above the crease but he didn’t have a stick. Daniel snatched the rebound and deposited it into the net.

Mike Zigomanis gave the Penguins life 22 seconds into the third period. Tyler Kennedy faked a shot above the far circle and then dished to Zigomanis down low. Sanford didn’t have his pad flushed against the right post and Zigomanis sneaked the puck through for his second goal of the season.

Rob Scuderi made a great defensive play in his own zone. He was the lone man back on a two-on-one rush for Vancouver. The Canucks managed the first pass across but Scuderi got his stick on the return attempt to break up a scoring chance.

Malkin did a little cherry picking on occasions in an attempt to catch the Canucks on line changes. When Vancouver switched their lines, particularly their defensive pairing, Malkin would wait at the Vancouver blue line. The Pittsburgh defenseman would send a quick pass to Malkin, who would race in for an opportunity. The Penguins pulled this stunt a few times in the game, and generated a few chances but didn't score on any.

Demitra finished the game with his second goal of the game on an empty-netter. It's his seventh goal of the season and put Vancouver ahead, 3-1. The Canucks went 3-0-1 on their current four-game road trip.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 12-5-3 on the year, with a 6-2-2 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins suffered their first loss in November and are now 7-1-1 in the month.

> Pavol Demitra notched the game’s opening goal at 18:05 of the first period. Daniel Sedin made it a 2-0 game with his ninth goal of the season at 6:50 of the second period. Mike Zigomanis scored 22 seconds into the third frame to cut the lead to 2-1. Demitra scored his second goal of the game with 12 seconds left to seal the 3-1 win.

> Pittsburgh and Vancouver both registered 19 shots on goal. Pittsburgh has only been outshot once in its past nine games.

> Despite not registering a point, Evgeni Malkin still leads the NHL with 31 points on seven goals and 24 assists. His 24 assists are also a league best.

> Crosby has quietly climbed the rankings and is now fifth (tied) in the league in scoring with 25 points (7G-18A). His 18 assists are the third most (tied) in the league.

> Matt Cooke was ejected in his first game against his former team. Cooke was one of a number of players involved in a fight early in the game.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 77th straight game with an attendance of 17,040.

> The Penguins “Toys for Tots Drive” was a huge success, collecting a record number of toys (1,509) and cash ($4,971) to be given to disadvantaged children. Pittsburgh will hold one final collection at next Saturday's game against New Jersey on Nov. 29. 
1. Pavol Demitra, VAN
2. Daniel Sedin, VAN
3. Mike Zigomanis, PIT
“They worked harder than us. They deserve to win."
- Michel Therrien on the Canucks


Author: Sam Kasan

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