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Aftermath: Penguins 2, Flames 0

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins made a statement in their 2-0 victory over Calgary, one of the best teams in the Western Conference. The game had a “playoff” atmosphere with the intensity and physical play between the two teams. Calgary, a very strong and physical team, tried to push the Penguins around but Pittsburgh pushed right back and blanked the NHL’s third-best offense. If the Penguins can be successful in a physical, gritty game against a team like the Calgary Flames, then they can play with any team in the National Hockey League.  

With Pittsburgh’s victory combined with Florida’s 5-3 loss to Buffalo, the team took another step towards solidifying its playoff positioning. Pittsburgh is currently in the sixth spot in the East and has a seven-point cushion over the Panthers (plus the head-to-head tie breaker).
(AP) -Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and the Pittsburgh Penguins kept pace in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race with a 2-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Kris Letang and Hal Gill scored, and Evgeni Malkin had an assist, giving him a career-high 106 points and extending his NHL scoring lead to 10 points.
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 72 40-22-10 90
5. Carolina 76 41-28-7 89
6. Pittsburgh 75 40-27-8 88
7. NY Rangers 74 39-27-8 86
8. Montreal 73 37-27-9 83
9. Florida 74 35-28-11 81
10. Buffalo 73 35-30-8 78

Team Notables:
Buffalo: Defeated Florida, 5-3
Carolina: Defeated Ottawa, 2-1
Florida: Lost to Buffalo, 5-3
Montreal: Hosts Tampa Bay, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
NY Rangers: Play at Atlanta, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: Hosts Florida, Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Penguins didn't back down to Calgary's physical play (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Man Up
Calgary plays a physical brand of hockey. The Flames fight for pucks along the wall, go to the front of the net, hit, block shots and can be an imposing opponent. The Penguins expected to be challenged to a brawl. Pittsburgh did not back down from the fight, matching Calgary’s physical play. The Penguins set the tone early and outhit the Flames, 44-25, in the game.  

What Could Have Gone Better: Beating the Empty Net
The Penguins were leading 2-0 in the final minutes of the game and appeared to have the victory locked up. Pittsburgh had a number of quality chances to tally an empty-net score but came up short. Matt Cooke missed the net twice, while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each hit the post. 
Marc-Andre Fleury earned every bit of his pay check against Calgary. He showed great vision in tracking the puck. Fleury moved quickly from side-to-side and into the proper position on shots. He made a few spectacular saves (including a couple of split saves to stop David Moss and Olli Jokinen). Fleury stopped all 31 shots he faced to record his fourth shutout of the season and blanked the NHL’s third-best offense.
The Penguins struck first with a power-play score in the first period. Evgeni Malkin unleashed a slap shot on net from above the near circle. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made the initial save and the puck slid below the goal line. Sidney Crosby kicked the puck above the goal line to his stick and threw a cross-crease pass – between Kiprusoff’s legs – to Kris Letang, who tapped in the easy score. Pittsburgh 1, Calgary 0.

The Penguins got their second goal from the most unlikely of sources. Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri carried the puck into the Penguins zone with speed. Rob Scuderi made a great play to poke the puck off of his stick and push it ahead to Hal Gill. Gill hit Malkin up the near side and the Russian center entered the Flames zone. Malkin skated towards the goal before dropping a pass to Gill. The Penguins blueliner roofed a shot into the top left corner for his second goal of the year. Pittsburgh 2, Calgary 0.
The Penguins switched forwards Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Cooke in the game, creating new line combinations. Cooke skated with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, while Fedotenko played alongside Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.

The turning point of the game came courtesy of the Penguins penalty killing unit. Malkin was assessed a four-minute double-minor penalty for high sticking, which stretched into the third period. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made several sensational saves and Pittsburgh escaped the four minutes unscathed. The Penguins scored shortly after to take a 2-0 lead and Calgary never recovered.
> Pittsburgh improved its record to 40-27-8 on the year with a 22-12-3 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games and 4-1-1 on their franchise-long eight-game homestand.

> Pittsburgh is 13-2-3 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
PIT, K.Letang PP (9), 8:20 1st period: Penguins 1, Flames 0
PIT, H.Gill (2), 6:43 3rd period: Penguins 2, Flames 0

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against Calgary to increase his NHL lead in points to 106 (33G-73A). Malkin’s 106 points ties a career high (set last season) and his 73 assists are a league-best and a new career high.

> Malkin has tallied 30-plus goals (33) in three straight seasons and has broken the 100-point barrier (106) for the second consecutive season.

> Sidney Crosby tallied a helper against the Flames. He is second (tied) in the league in scoring with 96 points (28G-68A) and his 68 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 73.

> Crosby has a season-long 14-game scoring streak, tallying 24 points (7G-17A) over that span.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (33+73=106) and Crosby (28+68=96). Only twice in the past 20 years have two players from the same team finish 1-2 in the NHL scoring race…and Pittsburgh accomplished the feat both times.

The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves in the game to record his fourth shutout of the season. He is 10-1-2 in his last 13 games.

> In the month of March, Fleury has an 8-1-2 record with a 1.77 goals against average and .934 save percentage.

> Kris Letang, who’s already set career highs in goals, assists and points, tallied his second goal in as many games. He has two goals and three assists (five points) in his past five games.

> Hal Gill scored his second goal of the year and snapped a 25-game goal-less drought.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 104th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,083. Pittsburgh is 66-29-9 in during that span.
1. M.Fleury, PIT
2. H.Gill, PIT
3. E.Malkin, PIT
"Fleury played very well tonight, He was solid. He made some big
saves but the guys played very hard in front of him. We
battled around him. We limited their scoring chances,
mostly to the outside. It was a great job by our
goaltender, but it was a great job by our
team defense as well."
- Interim Head Coach Dan Bylsma


Author: Sam Kasan

Author: Sam Kasan

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