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Aftermath: Penguins 2, Sharks 1 SO

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The Penguins put together an impressive performance and knocked off the best team in the National Hockey League with a 2-1 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks. Pittsburgh played aggressively and didn’t back down from the challenge. The win put an exclamation mark on a successful four-game homestand. The Penguins went 3-1-0 and collected six of a possible eight points.

Pittsburgh moved to within one point of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. But some teams have a few games in hand on the Penguins so the team still has to make up some ground. However, beating the juggernaut Sharks is the type of victory that could catapult the team into the stretch run.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Sidney Crosby's hard wrist shot fooled San Jose goalie Brian Boucher for the only goal in the shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins rode Marc-Andre Fleury's strong goaltending to a 2-1 victory over the Sharks on Wednesday night.

Fleury turned aside 36 of 37 shots as Pittsburgh won for the third time during a four-game homestand. San Jose, coming off a 5-2 win at Boston on Tuesday night in a matchup of the two NHL conference leaders, is 1-2-2 in its last five games despite its 37-7-8 record. The Sharks are 10-1-2 against Eastern Conference teams.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Sidney Crosby celebrates his shootout winning goal against San Jose (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: No Fear
The Penguins knew they couldn’t make mistakes against a team as dominant as San Jose. It was going to take a near perfect performance to best the Sharks. But Pittsburgh didn’t play passive and scared, sitting back and trying to avoid mistakes. The Penguins took the play to the Sharks, played with confidence and attacked, attacked and attacked.

What Could Have Been Better: Power Play
The Penguins had two stellar opportunities to win the game on the man-advantage. The first chance came in the final four minutes of regulation. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each hit posts to nearly get the go-ahead goal. Pittsburgh had another chance to win with a power play in overtime. But again, the Penguins came up empty. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Marc-Andre Fleury faced a barrage of shots throughout the game but the Penguins netminder stood tall and held his ground. Fleury held San Jose, the NHL’s second-highest scoring offense, to only one score. Fleury made a key save with less than three minutes left in regulation when Mike Grier had a shorthanded breakaway. The puck was bouncing and Grier didn’t get a clean shot on goal but Fleury got his left pad on the puck to save the game. Fleury made 36 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts in the game to win his third game in his last four tries.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
Pittsburgh native Bill Thomas notched his first goal for his hometown team with a tally late in the second period to break a scoreless tie. Miroslav Satan carried the puck with speed through the neutral zone and flipped the puck ahead to Thomas. The former Mt. Lebanon player couldn’t control the puck and wound up behind the goal line. His attempted centering pass went off the stick of San Jose defenseman Rob Blake and between the legs of goaltender Brian Boucher. Pittsburgh 1, San Jose 0.

The Sharks tied the game in the third period. Ryane Clowe sent a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury. There was a scramble in front of the crease as the puck bounced around. Joe Pavelski found the puck and wristed it into the vacant goal. Pittsburgh 1, San Jose 1.

Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning shootout goal on Pittsburgh’s third attempt. Crosby deked the puck before sending a wrist shot through Boucher’s five-hole. Fleury made a split toe save on Dan Boyle to clinch the victory. Pittsburgh 2, San Jose 1.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
The Matt Cooke-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora line played an inspired opening period. The trio dominated time of possession in the Sharks zone. Cooke is throwing his body around with no regards for his health. He’s landed several crushing checks. The tandem crashed the net, created chances and dictated the tempo early in the game.

Sharks goaltender Brian Boucher, who started in place of Evgeni Nabakov, fought the puck the entire game. He never looked comfortable in his puck control and surrendered a lot of rebounds. Pittsburgh took advantage by getting a lot of pucks on net.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved to 27-24-5 on the year, with a 15-11-2 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 3-2 in shootouts this season. Their last shootout was Dec. 3 at New York Rangers (loss).

> PIT, B.Thomas (1), 18:26 2nd period: Penguins 1, Sharks 0.
SJ, J.Pavelski (14), 11:07 3rd period: Penguins 1, Sharks 1.
Shootout:
PIT: P.Sykora (stopped), E.Malkin (stopped), S.Crosby (score)
SJ: M.Michalek (stopped), J.Pavelski (stopped), D.Boyle (stopped)

> Evgeni Malkin was scoreless against San Jose but still leads the NHL in points with 80 (24G-56A). Malkin’s 56 assists are a league best. In his last 16 games, Malkin has collected nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points. Malkin still has notched a point in 11 of his last 14 games.

> Sidney Crosby was held off the scoresheet against the Sharks. He is still second in the league in scoring with 72 points (21G-51A) and his 51 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 56. Crosby has at least one point in 11 of his last 15 games, posting six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in that span.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (24+56=80) and Crosby (21+51=72). 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 36 saves to win his third game in his last four contests. He also stopped all three shootout attempts.

> Pittsburgh native Bill Thomas scored his first goal (as well as first point) for his hometown team.

> Jordan Staal setup the Penguins’ first goal. The assist marked the 100th point of his career.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 95th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,034.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. M.Fleury, PIT
2. B.Boucher, SJ
3. S.Crosby, PIT
"I'm happy but I'm ready for the next game and to get a win."
- Marc-Andre Fleury
 

 



Author: Sam Kasan

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