The Penguins snapped their three-game winless streak (0-1-2) with a 3-1 victory against the Nashville Predators in the Music City at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night.
For the Penguins, this game was bigger than the win or the two points in the standings. For Pittsburgh, it was about cleaning up their play and putting together a better performance than their previous showings.
“We weren’t happy and this has been going on for a while. We had some bad habits creep into our game,” said defenseman Matt Niskanen, who scored twice in the game. “We addressed some things and made adjustments. Guys were really focused. It was good to see.”
The Penguins didn’t have many breakdowns and were defensively responsible in their own zone, holding Nashville to just 19 shots.
“We talked a lot after the Chicago game about the kind of team we wanted to be,” forward Tanner Glass said. “The win is important, but we need to play well in all facets of the game, specifically defensively. I think we did that pretty well tonight.”
Defenseman Matt Niskanen is in the midst of a career year in many respects. He’s already set career highs in goals (9) and points (37), and is one assist shy of tying his career high (29).
Against the Predators he registered his first career two-goal game with a pair of tallies.
“A couple shots on net that found their way through,” Niskanen said.
Niskanen’s first goal was certainly a testament of a puck finding its way through. Sidney Crosby, who had three assists in the game, got the puck to Niskanen near the wall. He took a quick shot that sneaked through several bodies and into the net. Niskanen’s celebration was delayed because he didn’t see it go in.
“I don’t know how it went it, it didn’t get off the ice,” Niskanen said.
The Penguins scored off a rush play for Niskanen’s second goal, which came on the power play and was a simple slap shot from the point.
“I got a shot from a pretty good area of the ice,” Niskanen said. “Knuckle puck kind of fooled (Pekka Rinne).”
Forward Tanner Glass knows no fear.
Glass sacrificed his body to block not one, but two booming shots from Predators defenseman Shea Weber, who no doubt has the hardest shot in the NHL (during the 2010 Olympics, he blasted a puck so hard it went THROUGH the netting). And he did so without hesitation or fear of being maimed.
“You don’t even think about it when you’re out there,” said Glass, who didn’t even have a stick at the time of the blocks. “You know the power play is set up to have him shooting the puck. My job is to be in the shot lane.”
Weber had a chance to shoot for a third time, but after his first two shots were blocked he opted to pass the puck.
“At that point it looked like Tanner was begging Shea to shoot another one,” head coach Dan Byslma said. “He forced him to pass up the shot.”
Glass finished the game with five blocked shots.
“It lifts the team up,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said of Glass’ blocks. “It’s like a big goal or nice fight. You know it’s coming hard and heavy. He goes once, twice and makes the save. (I tip) my hat to him.”
Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz had been sitting on a milestone. For six games he was only one goal shy of 200 for his career.
And finally he came through.
Kunitz scored the backbreaker late in the third period to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead. It was his 28th goal of the season, putting him two away from the big 30.
Author: Sam Kasan