The Penguins’ final game of the regular season against Atlanta had no playoff implications, as Pittsburgh was already locked into fourth place with a first-round matchup against Tampa Bay looming. Regardless, they took care of business against the Thrashers, winning 5-2 at Phillips Arena on Sunday.
Thanks to four second-period goals, the Penguins tied a franchise record for most road victories with 24. The last time the Penguins achieved that feat was in the 1992-93 season. And by killing off three of five Thrashers power plays, the Pittsburgh penalty kill finished at the top of the league for the first time in franchise history with a success rate of 86.1 percent.
Before the game, head coach Dan Bylsma said the team had to avoid looking ahead to the playoffs, but it looked like the Penguins might fall into that trap early on as the Thrashers took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Pittsburgh came out flying, though, in the next period, as four different players – Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis, Mike Rupp and Mark Letestu – found the back of the net to give the Penguins a commanding lead heading into the third period.
The Thrashers attempted a comeback in the third period with a Tim Stapleton power-play goal that cut the Penguins’ lead to two goals. But Brent Johnson made 37 saves and Mike Comrie scored his first goal as a Penguin when he iced the game with an empty-netter to seal the win.
Once again, the Penguins won the game by scoring by committee, with five different goal-scorers. But one player was a constant fixture on the scoresheet. Ben Lovejoy tallied three assists on the Penguins’ first three goals.
Lovejoy’s three-points were a career high, surpassing his previous personal best of two assists on Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay.
Early in the second period, Lovejoy played a crucial role on the power play to set up Tyler Kennedy’s tally. Just four minutes later, he set up Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis with a two-on-one chance, where Dupuis smacked the puck past Atlanta goalie Chris Mason.
Four minutes after that, he set up Mike Rupp’s goal by passing to Eric Godard, whose shot ricocheted off the boards, through the crease and right to Rupp’s stick.
He finished with a plus-2 rating and one block through 17:51 of ice time.
The Thrasher’s grabbed the early lead when Andrew Ladd beat Brent Johnson early in the game on a power play. Atlanta went on to outshoot the Penguins 12-9 in the first period. But early in the second period, the Penguins pounced.
With the Penguins on a power play, Ben Lovejoy sent the puck to the point, where Matt Niskanen dished it to Tyler Kennedy in the right circle. Kennedy spun around to get his defender out of position. Eric Tangradi was busy setting a great screen right in front of Chris Mason, paving the way for Kennedy’s blast into the net.
After that power-play goal, the Penguins never looked back, scoring three more times in the middle frame to put the game in the win column.
(AP) - Tyler Kennedy scored the first of Pittsburgh's four second-period goals, reserve goalie Brent Johnson won his fourth straight decision, and the Penguins closed the regular season with a 5-2 victory Sunday over the already-eliminated Atlanta Thrashers.
Pascal Dupuis, Michael Rupp and rookie Mark Letestu added goals to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead 18:14 into the second. Kennedy's 21st goal came on a power play.
Late in the third, Mike Comrie scored an empty-net goal to make it 5-1. Ben Lovejoy finished with three assists.
- The Penguins won their 24th road game of the season, tying a franchise record set in 1992-93. Pittsburgh’s 54 points on the road broke the team’s record for most road points, surpassing the 92-93 mark of 51.
- Pittsburgh’s power play killed off three of Atlanta’s five power-plays, giving the Penguins’ PK a success rate of 86.1 on the season. That mark puts the Penguins atop the league in that category, which is the first time in franchise history Pittsburgh achieved that feat.
- The Penguins swept the season series against Atlanta (4-0). Pittsburgh also swept Buffalo and Florida this season, giving them three sweeps in series’ of at least four or more games.
- Mike Rupp’s second-period tally gave him four points (2G-2A) in the last five games.
- Eleven different players scored points in the game.
- The Penguins won at Phillips Arena for the fifth time in the past three years, having only lost at Atlanta once during that span.
#1. Ben Lovejoy
Defenseman - 6
#2. Pascal Dupuis
Left Wing - 9
#3. Andrew Ladd
Left Wing - 16
Author: Tony Jovenitti