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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Thrashers 3 OT

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Photos: Pens 4, Thrashers 3 (OT)

Video: Game Highlights
Blog: Pens vs. Atlanta Game Blog
The Penguins were disappointed with their effort following a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night. After a players’ only meeting, an impromptu early morning practice and much discussion, the team rebounded strong with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Pittsburgh played much better in every facet of its game against a dangerous Atlanta team, which is desperately fighting to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Penguins could have easily walked away with a win if not for a great performance from former Penguin Johan Hedberg in goal for the Thrashers.

So the Penguins did it the hard way. With their goaltender pulled and working on a power play Sergei Gonchar, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with an illness, launched a slap shot into the net with only 1:14 left in regulation to tie the game at 3-3.

Jordan Leopold helped the Penguins steal the second point in the game when his sneaky shot squeaked through Hedberg at 2:50 of overtime. It was his first goal as a Penguin.

The Penguins have opened up a two-point lead in the Atlantic Division race over New Jersey, which has played one less game, with only four games remaining for Pittsburgh.
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Jordan Leopold scored his first goal for Pittsburgh at 2:50 of overtime after Atlanta failed three times to hold leads, and the Penguins bounced back from one of their worst losses all season to beat the Thrashers 4-3 Saturday.

Jordan Leopold celebrates his overtime winning goal
(photo by Getty)
What Went Well: Increased Health
The Penguins lineup received a boost with the return of superstar Evgeni Malkin and top defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Both were huge factors in the game. Gonchar scored the game-tying goal with 1:14 left in the third period and added an assist for a two-point game. Malkin scored a power-play goal and assisted on Gonchar’s goal. Both players provided the spark the Penguins needed for the win.

What Could Have Gone Better: Gaining a Lead
The Penguins didn’t lead in their contest against Atlanta until Jordan Leopold scored the game-winning overtime goal. The Thrashers held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. Each time the Penguins tied the game, Atlanta responded by scoring another goal. Pittsburgh was never able to build momentum and put pressure on the Thrashers with an advantage on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh did gain the lead (and win) at the most important juncture of the game: overtime.
Sergei Gonchar is a key component to the Penguins team, and he showed why against the Thrashers. Returning after a bout of illness that caused him to miss four games, Gonchar scored the game-tying goal with 1:14 remaining in the third period and added an assist for a two-point night. His presence on the power play helped the Penguins notch two man-advantage scores.
The Thrashers broke the scoreless tie in the final minute of the first period. Maxim Afinogenov carried the puck into the Penguins zone on a three-on-three, dished to Niclas Bergfors and skated to the net. Bergfors returned the puck to the top of the crease where Afinogenov re-directed it into the goal. Atlanta 1, Pittsburgh 0.

The Penguins pulled even with a power-play goal halfway through the second period. Sidney Crosby corralled the puck at the far point, drawing in three Thrashers players. He made a quick pass to Alex Goligoski above the near circle. With the Thrashers penalty killers out of position, Goligoski was able to laser a pass to Evgeni Malkin along the opposite side goal line. Malkin one-timed a shot into the netting. Pittsburgh 1, Atlanta 1.

Atlanta regained the lead with 2:37 left in the second frame with a power-play tally. Johnny Oduya took a slap shot from above the near circle. Tim Stapleton was standing in front of Fleury and tipped the shot under the Penguins netminder’s arm. Atlanta 2, Pittsburgh 1.

Pittsburgh evened the game three minutes into the third period. Sergei Gonchar took a shot from above the near circle. Johan Hedberg made a blocker save and pushed the puck to the opposite of the ice. Tyler Kennedy skated in and buried a shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 2, Atlanta 2.

The Thrashers responded with a goal just 64 seconds after Pittsburgh tied the game. Clarke MacArthur took a shot on goal that was stopped by Fleury. Rich Peverley swooped in to lift the rebound into the goal. Atlanta 3, Pittsburgh 2.

The Penguins tied the game with just 1:14 left in regulation. While working on a power play and with their goaltender pulled, Pittsburgh had a six-on-four advantage. Malkin carried the puck through the neutral zone and found Gonchar at the midpoint. Gonchar drilled a slap shot into the net to tie the score. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 3.

Pittsburgh won the game 2:50 into overtime on Jordan Leopold’s first goal as a Penguin. Leopold picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone as his teammates went to the bench to change lanes. Rather than dump the puck, Leopold skated into the near corner, pulled up and threw a turning shot towards the net. Hedberg took his eye off Leopold for a second to track the other Penguins entering the zone late, and when he turned his head back toward Leopold he watched the black blur dart between his legs and into the net. Pittsburgh 4, Atlanta 3.
Getty Images
Veteran Bill Guerin dropped the gloves for the second straight game in an attempt to fire up his teammates. This time Guerin went blow-for-blow with Jim Slater of Atlanta. Both players landed several hits before the duel was broken up.

Bryan Little suffered an injury in the early minutes of the second period. Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg made a great split save on Alex Goligoski. Little followed Goligoski on the play and fell awkwardly into the boards. He remained on the ice for a while, eventually getting to his feet and skating to the locker room.

The Penguins handed out their team awards in a ceremony prior to the game. The winners were: Good Guy Award (Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury); Comeback Award (Bill Guerin); Community Service Award (Crosby); Defensive Player of the Year (Brooks Orpik); Players’ Player Award (Jordan Staal); and Team MVP (Crosby).
> Scoring Summary:
ATL, M.Afinogenov (24), 19:12 1st period: Thrashers 1, Penguins 0
PIT, E.Malkin PP (25), 12:05 2nd period: Penguins 1, Thrashers 1
ATL, T.Stapleton PP (2), 17:23 2nd period: Thrashers 2, Penguins 1
PIT, T.Kennedy (12), 3:27 3rd period: Penguins 2, Thrashers 2
ATL, R.Peverley (22), 4:31 3rd period: Thrashers 3, Penguins 2
PIT, S.Gonchar PP (11), 18:46 3rd period: Penguins 3, Thrashers 3
PIT, J.Leopold (8), 2:50 OT: Penguins 4, Thrashers 3

> Pittsburgh improved to 45-26-7 on the season for 97 points, with a 24-11-4 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins maintain a one-point lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

> The Penguins are now 31-3-3 at home in the month of March/April since the 2006-07 season. Pittsburgh is 6-1-1 this March/April.

> Pittsburgh is 9-4-3 since the Olympic break.

> The Penguins notched two power-play goals in the game, and have killed 47 of the last 52 shorthanded situations (90.4 percent).

> All-time under head coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins are 63-29-11; 34-12-5 at home; and 39-1-1 (25-1-1) when scoring four or more goals.

> Sidney Crosby chipped in three assists and now has 97 points on the year. He is three points away from notching his fourth career 100-point season, and six from hitting the 500-point mark in his career.

> Evgeni Malkin posted a goal and an assist in his first game back from a foot injury.

> Sergei Gonchar tallied a goal and an assist in his first game back from an illness.

> Jordan Leopold scored his first goal as a Penguin, the overtime winner.

> Alex Goligoski picked up two assists in the game.
1. S.Gonchar
2. E.Malkin
3. J.Leopold
“Those are the types of games and wins that you are going to have when games get tougher.”
- Dan Bylsma

Author: Sam Kasan

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