Everything you need to know from the Penguins' 3-2 shootout triumph over Los Angeles:
‘ITZ ALL GOOD
Talk about coming up clutch for your team.
Scoring the game-tying goal to force overtime with just 2:57 left in regulation just wasn’t enough for Chris Kunitz
– he also went on to net the game-deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout to seal a 3-2 victory for Pittsburgh over Los Angeles on Saturday.
Kunitz’s game revolves around the way he’s able to use his compact frame to establish a presence around the opposing team’s net, and he did that to absolute perfection against the Kings.
“I thought he could have had another two around the cage with the way he was in the blue paint with rebounds and getting at the goalie,” head coach Dan Bylsma smiled.
That net-front presence is what led to his fifth goal in eight games, with the play beginning when linemate Pascal Dupuis
made a solid play to keep the puck rimmed in the offensive zone. Kunitz picked it up and cycled back to center Jordan Staal
– back in the lineup after sitting out the last two games with a lower-body injury – who poked it right back to him while he was circling behind the net.
Kunitz burst out to the front of the cage and whipped a backhander into the netting before Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had a chance to slide over.
“Really good forecheck by Duper, he kind of jumped the guy and I think the people lost the puck,” Kunitz explained. “It was kind of up in the glass. I took it behind and tried to make a play out to ‘Staalsy’ coming to the net. It hit his skate and he made a pass back. I just took it around the net and put it in.”
Kunitz then solved Quick during the shootout with a classic move that he’s used – and converted – many times before.
“You try to make a move and see if he does," Kunitz said. "If he flinches or he opens up his legs, you try to find a spot. It went through."
Kunitz finished with six shots on goal through an impressive 20:54 of ice time.
The puck just had to find the back of the net for Steve Sullivan
at some point – with the chances he’s been getting and the way he’s been playing, it was bound to happen.
Luckily, that time finally came on Saturday vs. Los Angeles.
The veteran forward emphatically threw the monkey off his back when he scored his first goal of the season – a power-play tally – with just 1:15 left in the first period to give his team a 1-0 lead.
“I just want to continue to do it,” Sullivan said following the game. “I think I was trying to keep a good mental state and trying to stay positive, and knew that if I continued to play the way I was and keep getting those scoring chances, it was going to go in. Hopefully now I can stop squeezing so tight and start scoring some more goals.”
The play began shortly after a Penguins’ 5-on-3 advantage became a 5-on-4 situation. Defenseman Kris Letang
sent Kings forward Anze Kopitar sprawling on a gorgeous shot fake before dishing to Sullivan, who was posted up behind the net. He wasted no time shooting and solving Quick.
“It was a great play,” Sullivan said. “We had a lot of good movement 5-on-3. It became a 5-on-4 and ‘Tanger’ just made a great fake shot-pass to me. The goaltender bit pretty hard. I knew the net was open; I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss.”
Sullivan, skating on a line with Evgeni Malkin
and James Neal
, has played a huge role on the Penguins’ power play, manning the point on the team’s top unit – so it was only fitting to see him rewarded in that situation.
He now has six points (1G-5A) on the season.
After receiving a smorgasbord of power-play time in the first period (a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage), the Penguins would experience a two-man disadvantage in the next frame.
Shortly after Letang went to the box for roughing just 1:11 into the period, the Penguins received a too many men penalty just 42 seconds later – giving the Kings a 5-on-3 power play for 1:18 minutes.
The Penguins proceeded to prove why their penalty kill is ranked No. 2 in the league, with forwards Matt Cooke
and Craig Adams
and defenseman Brooks Orpik
thwarting the Kings for most of the disadvantage – with help from Staal and Dupuis.
“We got a significant portion of 5-on-3 in the first. You just had a feeling they were going to get one as well,” Bylsma said. “For a minute and 18 seconds, our guys came up huge in the second period.
“Our PKers were awesome. ‘Brooksy,’ ‘Ads,’ ‘Cookie’ were exceptional. Staalsy and Duper as well. That was a huge, huge point in the game.”
While the skaters did awesome, the Penguins like to say that their goalie has to be their best penalty killer – and that was definitely the case on Saturday as Marc-Andre Fleury
came up huge for the Penguins as well during that sequence.
He has yet to allow a power-play goal through 11 games this season.
With their assists on Sullivan’s goal, Letang and Neal each extended their respective point streaks to four games.
Letang continues to perform at an elite level while logging huge minutes, skating a staggering 32:33 against the Kings. He now has at least one point in 10 of the 13 games he has played, recording five assists over his streak.
Neal, meanwhile, continues to pace the Penguins with nine goals and 14 points through 15 games. He’s got one goal and four assists over this four-game stretch.
BORTUZZO, PICARD DEBUT
The Penguins’ depth at defense was showcased on Saturday when recent call-ups Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo
suited up against the Kings, as both Ben Lovejoy
(broken wrist) and Matt Niskanen
(lower-body) were sidelined.
The game marked Bortuzzo’s NHL debut and Picard’s first-ever game in a Penguins sweater. The two men played almost identical minutes – Picard finished with 10:37 of ice time while Bortuzzo logged 10:38.
“ We’ve had a lot of injuries, but we haven’t used that as excuses,” Sullivan said. “Guys have stepped up and made a difference and continue to do so. We had two more guys step in tonight – two defensemen – and play some good minutes and do a good job. So we’re proud of the group in this room.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo