Everything you need to know about the Pens' 3-2 OT setback to Washington: NEALIN’ GOOD
Penguins forward James Neal
continued his hot start to the season on Thursday, netting both Pittsburgh goals in their 3-2 overtime loss to Washington.
His second tally tied the game with just 3:36 left in regulation, forcing the extra period and allowing Pittsburgh to come away with a point in the standings. His efforts played a huge role in ensuring the Penguins have an undefeated record (3-0-2) through their first five games.
“I’m feeling good,” Neal said, who skated on a line with Evgeni Malkin
and Steve Sullivan
. “Coming in and having a full camp in Pittsburgh and getting settled, making Pittsburgh a home and feeling comfortable leads over on the ice.”
Neal, 23, has now recorded four goals and an assist through the first five games and has been a force all over the ice. He finished Thursday’s tilt by throwing a career- and game-high eight pucks to the net, upping his season total to 20. He’s also recorded nine hits through that span, and his teammates and coaches are glad to see him doing well.
“Great for Neal. He battles hard and has a great shot,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek
said. “We need him to score big goals for us. He came through tonight. We’ll need that going forward too.”
Added head coach Dan Bylsma, “James is a guy that gets 20, 25 goals a year for numerous years in a row. … I’m not totally surprised to see James get four goals in this short of time. He has the opportunity to get those goals playing with Malkin and Sullivan and on the power play.”
Penguins owner and legend Mario Lemieux dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff between Malkin and fellow Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin right before the game as part of the fundraising efforts to benefit the families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the KHL team that perished in a plane crash Sept. 7 in Russia.
And from that point on, ‘Geno’ played like he’d been shot out of a cannon despite the fact he’d been listed as a game-time decision after missing the Penguins’ two previous games with soreness in the scar on his surgically repaired right knee.
He finished by assisting on both of Neal’s goals in 22:25 of ice time.
The line of left wing Neal, center Malkin and right wing Sullivan proved to be a lethal combination on Thursday, combining for five points.
Neal gave plenty of credit to his linemates on his goals, saying “Malkin came back and was flying tonight. Sullivan is patient with the puck. … Great plays by my linemates to find me in open spots.“
LOVE FOR LOKOMOTIV
The Penguins and Capitals honored the families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the KHL team that perished in a plane crash Sept. 7 in Russia. The teams wore jerseys with commemorative patches, which they will now autograph and auction off on NHL.com. All proceeds will benefit the Lokomotiv players’ children and families. The auction began at puck drop and will run through Oct. 27.
The initiative was spearheaded by Malkin, who grew up playing hockey in Russia before coming to Pittsburgh and the NHL.
“We need to help because it’s very important for me, for all of us,” Malkin said prior to the game. “I think we’re one big hockey team and family and we need to help because it’s a big tragedy in Russia.”
The wives and girlfriends of the Penguins players did their part as well, selling remembrance bracelets before and during the game on the arena concourse to benefit the families.
“We are family regardless of what team we are on,” said Mary Beth Bylsma, wife of coach Dan. “So when a tragedy like this hits, we feel as though it’s part of our own family that’s been also affected. Our own families are on those planes every single day, and so it didn’t matter that it was in Russia, it could have been in our own backyard.
“We are happy that we could be part of something to help get to those ladies and those families that are obviously going through a huge tragedy.”
After signing a two-year contract extension with the Penguins Thursday morning, forward Chris Kunitz
tallied his 100th-career point that night against the Capitals.
Kunitz reached the century mark in 141 games as a Penguin on the strength of 43 goals and 57 assists. He finished Thursday night's game with the helper, four shots and three hits through 19:52 of ice time.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo