The Penguins overcame a third-period deficit for their eighth straight win on the back of a 2-1 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers at CONSOL Energy Center Friday night.
The Pens are now 8-16-2 when trailing after two periods. They're tied for the most wins in the NHL when trailing after two periods (Tampa Bay).
“The first couple periods, again we gave them one too many opportunities," Jordan Staal
said. "We have the talent in this room and the determination to find a way to win games in third and come back and we did that tonight.”
The Pens also overcame a two-goal deficit Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This year we haven’t been ahead a lot in the games so we’ve had to come back to win if we are going to win,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Last year there was a lot of talk about the fact that we didn’t come back last year. We won a lot of games and we were ahead in games in the third period. This year our goal differential in the third period is a pretty large number. Part of that’s the way we’re playing and taking over games and really dominating in the third period. In a lot of cases we’ve had to come back from deficits. We’ve had to push to do that and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve come back a little bit more in games this year.”
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
made 28 saves to record his sixth straight victory and 36th of the season.
“That’s big. I think maybe earlier in the season, we weren’t winning those games,” Fleury said. “Now we’re finding ways to stay in it and win those close games. It’s good because we keep climbing in the standings. Hopefully we keep going.”
Fleury made a critical save on a breakaway chance by Florida’s Tomas Fleischmann in the second period.
Fleury then stopped Wojtek Wolski and forced Mikael Samuelsson to shoot wide in the shootout to improve to 9-2 in shootouts on the season – the best mark in the NHL. He had a little help with Evgeni Malkin
and James Neal
both scoring their shootout opportunities.
“It’s always a little bit of pressure,” Fleury said. “It’s me and the other guy. But the guys up front, ‘Geno’ and ‘Nealer,’ did a great job getting those two goals. You can relax a little more back there. It’s nice to get the win.”
Blueliner Brooks Orpik
marveled at his goalie's shootout prowess.
“Listening to the goalie coach, they always say wait for the shooter to make the first move so maybe it’s just his patience, I don’t know,” Orpik said. “You’d have to ask him, but obviously he’s done a great job with it. Even when you think you’ve got him you have to finish hard on him. He’s got that recover ability. He’s so agile in there.”
The line combination of Steve Sullivan
, Jordan Staal
and Pascal Dupuis
continues to thrive. Sullivan scored the Penguins’ lone goal three minutes into the third period.
Over their last eight games, the trio has combined for 29 points: Sullivan (4G-7A); Staal (3G-7A); Dupuis (4G-4A).
“I think ‘Duper’s’ been skating so well and making great plays, ‘Sully’s’ such a solid hockey player, he holds onto the puck and makes plays and opens up the ice,” Staal said. “We just try to use our speed and just try to create as much opportunity as we can.”
It was beautiful chemistry that resulted in the score. The Panthers turned the puck over at the Pittsburgh blue line. Dupuis retrieved the puck and send a blind, backhand pass to Staal. He threw the puck up ice to a streaking Sullivan.
“When I got (the puck) I kind of knew where (Sullivan) was going to be,” Staal said. “When I looked up I saw he had some good speed and I just tried to get it out there to him as fast as I could and he did the rest.”
Sullivan carried down the far side with a step on the Panthers defenseman. His backhander somehow sneaked under the glove of Jose Theodore and squeaked over the goal line.
“It was a good wall play by Duper to get it over to ‘Staalsy,’” Sullivan said. “By that time, I was able to build up some speed, take off and Staalsy made me a great cross-ice pass and was able to hit me right in stride. I got a little lucky with the goal. (Theodore) just couldn’t handle the strong backhand.”
With the assist, Staal extended his assist and point streaks to seven games – both career bests. He’s totaled four goals and seven assists over that eight-game span.
“Playing with Jordan Staal
, it just makes the game a lot easier,” Sullivan said. “He’s just such a horse out there. We don’t end up playing very much time in our own end. He’s just so detailed in both ends of the ice. So for ourselves, we don’t have to play much in our end. We get to play a lot in the offensive zone. He’s a pure goal scorer, so I just love passing him the puck.”
Defenseman Paul Martin
did not dress due to illness. The team recalled Simon Despres
from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to fill his spot.
Despres, the Pens' 2009 first-round pick, carried the puck coast-to-coast and threw a backhand shot off the post early in the first period. He finished with 15:12 minutes of ice time with two shots and two blocked shots.
Author: Sam Kasan