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Aftermath: Penguins 3, Thrashers 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Therrien  | Crosby | Sykora | Fleury
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The Penguins finally exorcised their power-play demons with two goals on the man-advantage, breaking a seven-game slump and 0-for-33 stretch. The key to the turnaround was the Penguins’ willingness to go to the front of the net. Both scores were re-direction by star players (Petr Sykora and Sidney Crosby) while above the Thrashers crease.

Pittsburgh put together a much needed complete effort to end its five-game losing streak. It’s true that Atlanta is one of the basement teams in the Eastern Conference but the Penguins don’t care. They needed a win to stop the bleeding and break the streak, and they accomplished that feat.

The victory doesn’t mean that the Penguins woes are over and the slump is a thing of the past, far from it. This was only one game, however big it was. Pittsburgh must now build on this effort and try to slowly climb out of its recent struggles and back into the playoff picture.
(AP) -Evgeni Malkin set up all the goals, Petr Sykora and Sidney Crosby scored them. Marc-Andre Fleury made a series of important saves in the third period. Ruslan Fedotenko didn't score, but unexpectedly set the tone with a one-punch fight.

For one night, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked like the talented team that went to the Stanley Cup finals last season.

Sykora ended Pittsburgh's seven-game drought without a power-play goal while scoring twice and Malkin came out of a slump with three assists, leading the Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night.

Ryan Whitney collides with Eric Perrin (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Adversity
The world was collapsing around the Penguins. The power play couldn’t score. The penalty killing couldn’t stop anyone. Worst of all, they couldn’t get a win. With all the problems and baggage Pittsburgh carried into the game, it put together one of its finest performances. The slumping power play netted two goals and Pittsburgh only surrendered one score in the game. The Penguins put together a complete performance and earned their first win in eight games.

What Didn't Work: Third Period Funk
The Penguins looked sluggish and lethargic in the third period. Atlanta carried the play and recorded 10 shots in the opening 10 minutes. Pittsburgh spent the majority of the opening minutes in its own zone and looked incapable of clearing the puck. Marc-Andre Fleury came up with some big saves to keep Atlanta off the board. 
Head coach Michel Therrien criticized the Penguins power play for being too perimeter-oriented. Therrien wanted to see more work done in front of the net. Petr Sykora took the advice to heart. Sykora took a beating but established a spot above the Thrashers’ crease. That’s where he stood when he re-directed Ryan Whitney’s pass into the net for a power-play goal, breaking Pittsburgh’s 0-for-33 slump. Sykora scored his second goal following a great play by Evgeni Malkin. Malkin won a faceoff in the Atlanta zone and made a cross-crease pass to Sykora. Sykora had to extend his stick to stop the puck and then scored on a ridiculous backhand shot from a bad angle. He finished with seven shots in the game and was a force on the ice.
Petr Sykora snapped a 0-for-33 draught on the power-play with a man-advantage score late in the first period. Sykora was stationed atop the Atlanta crease when Ryan Whitney fed him a pass from the blue line. Sykora tipped the shot into the top of the net over the shoulder of Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen. Pittsburgh had gone seven consecutive games without a power-play goal. Pittsburgh 1, Atlanta 0.  

Evgeni Malkin made an unbelievable play to extend the Penguins lead, 2-0, with a setup pass to Sykora. Malkin won a faceoff in the Atlanta zone in the near circle. He then kicked the puck forward with his skate and blew around the Thrashers players to collect the puck. Malkin sent a pass across the crease to Sykora, who lifted a tough-angled backhander into the goal for his second goal of the game. Pittsburgh 2, Atlanta 0.

Sidney Crosby broke out of his goal-scoring slump with a power-play goal to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead. Crosby, who hadn’t scored a goal in seven games, re-directed a Malkin slap shot into the net. Crosby was standing unimpeded in front of Lehtonen when he deflected Malkin’s rising shot towards the ice and into the net. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 0.

Ilya Kovalchuk ended the shutout bid with a power-play goal late in the third period. Kovalchuk took a shot from the blue line that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 1.
Ruslan Fedotenko set the tone early when he dropped the gloves with former Penguin Colby Armstrong. Fedotenko recorded a decisive victory by knocking Armstrong out with just one clean right-hand punch. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Fedotenko hurt his hand and didn’t return to the game. Pascal Dupuis also left early in the game didn’t return.

Armstrong tried to get under former roommate Sidney Crosby’s skin. He hit the Penguins captain and then pulled Crosby down as he fell to the ice. Armstrong then held onto Crosby and wouldn’t let him up. He received a two-minute holding penalty for the stunt.

A spectacular individual effort by Dupuis nearly led to a Pittsburgh goal. Dupuis forced a turnover and then outskated everyone to the loose puck. He made a nifty spin move and sent a pass to Tyler Kennedy, who had a wide-open net to shoot into. Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen made a sliding toe save to prevent a score.  

Marc-Andre Fleury looked like his old, elite self in the third period. Atlanta had 10 shots in the first 10 minutes of the third frame and Fleury stopped every attempt. He was moving fluidly in his crease and reacted quickly to shots. Fleury’s best stop was a point-blank save on an Ilya Kovalchuk one-timer. Fleury did allow a somewhat soft goal to Kovalchuk to end his shutout bid, but still put in a great performance, stopping 27 shots, to help the Penguins snap their losing streak.
> Pittsburgh improved to 20-17-4 on the year, with a 9-8-2 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins snapped a season-long five-game losing streak. Pittsburgh also snapped a five-game home losing streak with the victory.

> Pittsburgh took the lead on Petr Sykora’s power-play goal 17:10 into the first period. Sykora (15) notched his second score of the game 12:43 into the second period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Sidney Crosby (16) gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead with a power-play goal 15:41 into the second. Ilya Kovalchuk ended the shutout with his 14th goal of the season at 14:20 of the third period.

> Evgeni Malkin notched three assists against the Thrashers to extend his NHL lead in points to 63 (15G-48A). Malkin’s 48 assists are a league best.

> Sidney Crosby recorded his 16th goal of the season against Atlanta. He is third in the league in scoring with 51 points (16G-35A). His 35 assists are fourth most in the league.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves in the winning effort.

> Petr Sykora recorded his 39th career two-goal game against Atlanta. He has 18 points in his last 17 games (10G-8A). In his past 13 games, Sykora has eight goals and six assists for 14 points.

> Ryan Whitney had his first two-point game of the season with two assists.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 86th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 16,975.
1. Petr Sykora, PIT
2. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT
"We want to build off this. We played well even the game before this,
so, as long as the effort's there I'm always confident that
our execution comes with that, so hopefully that's a
trend that's going to come along."
- Sidney Crosby


Author: Sam Kasan

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