|Coming off a disappointing outcome on Thursday night in Ottawa, the Penguins made sure they would not suffer a similar fate against the Thrashers as they came out playing a perfect opening period of road hockey. Atlanta had a rare sellout crowd and the Penguins took them out of the game by scoring first on a Martin Skoula power-play goal. The Penguins held Ilya Kovalchuk and Rich Peverley, Atlanta’s top two scorers, without a shot in the opening frame. Skoula’s second goal of the game and a score from Evgeni Malkin in the second period allowed the Penguins to take control of the game as only great play between the pipes by Johan Hedberg kept Pittsburgh from blowing the Thrashers out. |
Marc-Andre Fleury struggled against the Senators, but he was sensational in Atlanta, particularly in the third period as the Thrashers gave the Penguins all they could handle. It took perfect execution on a couple odd-man rushes for Atlanta to get pucks behind Fleury, who stopped 31 of 33 shots on the night, including 14 of the 16 pucks thrown his way in the final frame. Fleury displayed outstanding positional play all evening.
|WHAT HAPPENED |
|ATLANTA (AP) – Defenseman Martin Skoula scored two goals, and the Pittsburgh Penguins held off the Atlanta Thrashers in a 3-2 victory on Saturday night. |
It was only the third victory in eight games for the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (15-8), who have been plagued by injuries after opening the season by winning 12 of their first 15. The Thrashers (10-7-2) fell to 4-5-1 at home.
|SHOT OF THE NIGHT |
Martin Skoula scored twice against the Thrashers
(photo by Getty)
|What Worked Well: Traffic on Hedberg |
Johan Hedberg was spectacular in goal for the Thrashers, but the Penguins did what you need to do when a netminder is in a zone – they got traffic in front of him. Both Sidney Crosby and Ruslan Fedotenko were standing in Hedberg’s grill on Martin Skoula’s opening goal. On Evgeni Malkin’s game-winning tally it was Mike Rupp driving the net and taking defenders with him to open the lane for the shot.
What Could Have Gone Better: Protecting the Lead
The Penguins entered the final period with a commanding 3-0 lead. They had to withstand a spirited Atlanta comeback attempt to record a 3-2 victory. The Thrashers scored twice in the final period while outshooting the Penguins by a 16-10 margin. Marc-Andre Fleury made several great saves to preserve the victory.
|Martin Skoula sat the first nine games of the regular season as the seventh defenseman before getting a chance following Sergei Gonchar’s injury. He has been very solid for the Penguins ever since, providing great defense at one end and contributing offensively at the other end. Skoula scored the Penguins’ first two goals against the Thrashers. |
It was Skoula’s perfectly-executed breakout pass onto the stick of Jordan Staal streaking through center ice that set up his second goal. Skoula tied for second on the team with four shots on goal.
|SCORING SYNOPSIS |
|Pittsburgh scored a power-play goal for the third-consecutive game as Martin Skoula took a pass at the right point from Chris Bourque and fired a wrist shot towards the net that deflected off Atlanta defenseman Ron Hainsey in front and eluded Johan Hedberg. Pittsburgh 1, Atlanta 0. |
The Penguins increased their lead to 2-0 as Matt Cooke took a pass from Jordan Staal on the right-wing boards and sent a cross-ice pass to Skoula coming down the left side. His slap shot beat Hedberg to the stick side. Pittsburgh 2, Atlanta 0.
Evgeni Malkin made it 3-0 in favor of Pittsburgh at 11:46 of the middle stanza when his shot from the slot went under the arm of Hedberg. Mike Rupp, who began the play by skating the puck from the Penguins end, crashed the net hard to provide traffic. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 0.
Seconds after Chris Thorburn wasn’t penalized for breaking the stick of Malkin at one end, he directed a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for a shorthanded tally after Zach Bogosian put a pass right on his tape. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 1.
Maxim Afinogenov added some late drama when he slid a pass from Nik Antropov under Fleury on a three-on-two rush into the Pittsburgh zone with just 18 seconds remaining in regulation. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 2.
|INTRIGUING NOTABLES |
|Max Talbot took the Penguins first penalty shot of the season with 2:26 to play in the second period after he was hauled down by Pavel Kubina on a breakaway attempt. Chris Bourque fed a pass ahead to Talbot seconds after stepping out of the penalty box. Talbot skated wide down the right-wing boards and drifted back towards the slot before sending a wrist shot wide of Johan Hedberg. |
Defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup against the Thrashers after missing the previous four games with a lower-body injury. He was reunited with Sergei Gonchar and the duo held Atlanta superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, who entered the game with 13 goals in 12 games, without a point. Overall, Orpik saw 24:20 of ice time and led the Penguins with five hits.
Speaking of Kovalchuk, Atlanta played most of the third period without him after he received two minor penalties for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct to go with the fighting major he was assessed for squaring off with Matt Cooke 6:42 into the third period.
Just as he had in the third period of Thursday’s game in Ottawa, head coach Dan Bylsma split the duo of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby played center on a line with Talbot on the left side and Bill Guerin on the right wing. Malkin was flanked by Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko.
|GAME NOTES |
|> Scoring Summary: |
PIT, M. Skoula PP (2), 7:38 1st period: Penguins 1, Thrashers 0
PIT, M. Skoula (3), 7:34 2nd period: Penguins 2, Thrashers 0
PIT, E. Malkin (6), 11:46 2nd period: Penguins 3, Thrashers 0
ATL, C. Thorburn SH (2), 9:40 3rd period: Penguins 3, Thrashers 1
ATL, M. Afinogenov (9), 19:42 3rd period: Penguins 3, Thrashers 2
> The Penguins conclude their three-game road swing Monday night in Florida as they take on the Panthers at 7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh defeated the Panthers, 3-2, in a shootout at Mellon Arena back on Oct. 23 as Sidney Crosby scored twice in regulation, then added the deciding goal in the shootout.
> The Penguins have now won six consecutive games against the Thrashers. Since the Thrashers joined the National Hockey League in 1999-2000 the Penguins have a 27-8-2 record against them, including a 13-4-2 mark in Atlanta. Pittsburgh has now won three straight games in Atlanta.
> Pittsburgh is now 33-11-4 in the regular season under head coach Dan Bylsma. They have a record of 16-6-3 away from Mellon Arena.
> Since Bylsma took over on Feb. 15 of last season the Penguins have a record of 31-0-2 when they score three or more goals. They are 15-0 in 2009-10 when they score three or more times.
> The Penguins killed off all three Atlanta power plays. The Thrashers came into the contest 6-for-18 with the man-advantage since Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the lineup.
> The Penguins are now 5-0 this season when centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal each record a point in the same game. They are 11-2 when Crosby records a point, 11-1 when Malkin gets one and 9-2 when Staal registers one.
> Evgeni Malkin scored in the second period to give him goals in back-to-back games. Malkin now has five points (2G-3A) in four games since returning from a strained shoulder. He is second on the team with 19 points (6G-13A) in 16 games.
> Captain Sidney Crosby increased his team-leading point total to 22 with his assist on Martin Skoula’s opening goal. For the season Crosby has 10 goals and 12 assists in 23 games.
> Jordan Staal’s assist on Skoula’s second-period goal extends his scoring streak to a season-high four games. Staal have five points (2G-3A) during the streak.
> Matt Cooke also increased his scoring streak to a season-high four games by also assisting on Skoula’s second goal. Cooke has two goals and three assists during his streak.
> Martin Skoula’s two-goal performance was the second of his career. He also scored twice and added an assist against the Nashville Predators on March 17, 2002 when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
|THREE STARS ||QUOTE OF THE NIGHT |
| || |
|1. M. Fleury |
2. M. Skoula
3. S. Crosby
|"I felt good. I was pretty relaxed. I tried to set the tempo." |
- Marc-Andre Fleury