and Brett Sterling have been two of the stars of the Penguins’ intra-squad scrimmages. On Wednesday night they continued their strong play during the Penguins’ 5-1 defeat of the Detroit Red Wings in the first-ever hockey game at CONSOL Energy Center.
Craig, who scored 32 goals in 184 career games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored twice, while Sterling, who played the left wing on Crosby’s unit with Pascal Dupuis
, added a goal and an assist.
“It’s exciting,” Craig said. “It’s one game. It’s one day. That’s how I have to take it every day at camp. It’s a great step in the right direction for this hockey club. I think we played a really solid game tonight. You could see our system coming together. It was a lot of fun to play, and it’s always fun to win.”
“The game went well, as good as I could have expected,” Sterling said. “There’s not much else I would have like to change – maybe bury that empty net at the end. … It’s great when you have guys like Sid and Pascal out there. You get them the puck, they make the smart play and are able to keep it. We were just working the puck around and getting a lot of offensive chances.”
Head coach Dan Byslma, who has praised both players on several occasions throughout the first week of camp, had more positive things to say about each following the game.
“Brett is a dominating goal scoring at the American League level,” Bylsma said. “He’s done it around the paint as much as with his shot. He’s got a great shot and a great release. In our intra-squad games he did it around the goal, and he did it around the goal tonight. That’s where he gets a lot of his goals. If you continue to win puck battles, play the game with grit and score goals, no one will talk about his size.
is a guy who has played a lot of NHL games. He was good tonight on the PK. He was winning draws. He played an effective game.”
Craig gave the Penguins a 3-0 first period lead when he ripped a snap shot over the right shoulder of Chris Osgood from the top of the far circle.
“I don’t normally score on the long shots,” Craig said. “Every once in a while those go in, that’s why you shoot the puck. My game, I’ve had success 15 feet around the net and in those traffic areas. That’s where I like to play. That’s where I like to go.”
At 15:06 of the second period, Craig’s hustle in beating veteran Mike Modano to a rebound allowed him to pick up a second goal.Tyler Kennedy
’s shot from the right dot flew off the right pad of Osgood and sat in the slot, where Craig slid along the ice to sweep the puck into the cage.
|Ryan Craig dives to the ice to sweep the puck behind Chris Osgood for his second goal of the game. |
Sterling, who stands all of 5-foot-7, looked twice as big on the ice, helping to set up Mike Comrie’s goal 1:21 into the contest, and later picking up a tally of his own at 13:28 of the second period.
On his goal, Sterling showed mettle by driving to the top of the crease, where he was able to tap a Crosby feed into the cage behind Osgood.
“You have to be ready at all times,” said Sterling of playing with Crosby. “On my goal, if I wasn’t ready then I would have missed the puck. You just have to be standing in there. You just have to be ready for it and bury your chances.”
“He played well,” Crosby said. “He’s also played well during the games at camp. Guys are competing for spots and that’s good to see.”
Sterling and Craig continuing to bury scoring chances is something that is really strengthening the Penguins’ competition level at forward as the first week of camp draws to a close. According to Comrie, that’s only going to make the team that much tougher to play when the regular season rolls around on Oct. 7.
“That kind of competition pushes everybody,” Comrie said. “You always expect a lot out of your teammates. If we can get some offense by committee and some depth – we know Sid and Geno are going to get their goals – I think that will be a step in the right direction.”