NEWARK, New Jersey – Penguins forward Matt Cooke
has reinvented his game for the 2011-12 season. But lately, he’s been reinvented as a goal-scoring threat.
Cooke has four goals in his last two games, producing his second two-goal game in as many contests in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win against New Jersey at Prudential Center that extended the club’s winning streak to an NHL-best 11 games this season.
Cooke now has 16 goals on the season – a new career high – and boasts 31 points.
“It seems like he only scores in twos and he gets a career high,” head coach Dan Bylsma smiled. “Guys have different roles on our team and they’re scoring big goals as well.”
“I’ve always believed that professional sports is 20 percent physical and 100 percent mental. I feel like confidence breeds confidence,” Cooke said. “When you’re going good and things are going well, you’ll play well and believe you can do it.”
Maybe it’s no coincidence that Cooke has exploded for a pair of two-goal games in the last two contests, as he’s been paired with the recently returned Sidney Crosby
. It was the Penguins captain who set up his first goal against the Devils.
Crosby carried the puck through a couple of defenders with Cooke streaking toward the goal alongside of him. Crosby whipped a quick backhand pass to Cooke. The puck went off Cooke’s skate and directed into the net. After a review the officials ruled that Cooke did not use a “distinct kicking motion” and therefore allowed the goal.
“I’m just trying to keep up,” Cooke said of playing with Crosby. “He’s dynamic. He opens the ice up. He’s made (Tyler Kennedy
) and I a lot better. It’s a lot of fun.”
Cooke’s second tally ended any hopes of a Devils’ comeback early in the third period. Kennedy carried the puck down the right side and made a move to get to the inside. The puck jumped off his stick, but Cooke was in perfect position to lift a backhander high into the net to finish the scoring in the game.
“I felt like our line was dangerous all night, we all had chances,” Cooke said. “It was a fortunate bounce off my skate for the first one. The second one I found a rebound in front and was able to put it behind Marty (Brodeur).”
Earlier in the day, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pittsburgh Hockey Writers Association nominated Cooke for the 2012 Masterton Award, given “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
“Any of those accolades are great and it’s a huge honor for me,” Cooke said. “But that’s not my focus.”
Cooke joined the Penguins as a free agent in 2008. He opted to re-signed with the club before hitting the free-agent market in 2010.