The Penguins hadn’t been playing an especially memorable game on Saturday afternoon against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, but that all changed with just over seven minutes left in the third period.
After Canucks forward Zack Kassian tipped a shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to give his team a 3-2 lead, the Penguins responded just 28 seconds later with rookie defenseman Olli Maatta’s first NHL goal.
The Penguins were then awarded a penalty shot with just 1:24 remaining in the period when center Brandon Sutter was hauled down on his way to the net. Sutter tried to snap a shot past goalie Roberto Luongo, who gloved it to keep the score knotted at 3-3 and force overtime.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the extra period, resulting in a shootout. Evgeni Malkin scored the game-deciding goal to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory, improving Pittsburgh’s record to 7-1.
Maatta, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz scored in regulation for the Penguins. Fleury made 36 saves and stopped all three Canucks he faced in the shootout to improve his record to a perfect 7-0. Fleury’s active seven-game winning streak to start the season is his second longest behind the eight-game stretch he posted from Oct. 2-20, 2009. FLEURY RECOVERS FROM FLUKY GOAL
Vancouver’s top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler created a lot of decent chances in the first period, but it was defenseman Alex Edler who opened the scoring on a fluky sequence.
On the play, Edler collected the puck at the red line. With his teammates in the midst of a line change, he wound up and fired a shot into the zone. Fleury got behind it and stood tall like he’s supposed to, but it struck him weirdly on the chest, bounced up and over his head and over the goal line before he could recover and locate it.
“I don’t know,” Fleury responded when asked what happened, laughing and shaking his head. “All my life I’ve been doing this. Right in the chest, I don’t know. Somehow it had some spin and went over my head and I lost it and it was in the net.”
Over the course of an 82-game season, goals like that are going to happen. What was most impressive about the situation was the way Fleury recovered from it. After doing his usual skate-to-the-corner he does after every goal he allows and muttering a few unmentionables, the goaltender returned to his net and played out the game in a calm and steady manner, producing an excellent performance for the Penguins and keeping them in the contest.
“I said a couple bad words to start, and then just relax,” Fleury said with a grin about how he regrouped. “Kind of laugh at myself a little bit when we scored the goal after. It’s a lot more fun to laugh at it now that we won, but sometimes it happens and you’ve just got put it aside and try to stop the next puck. I knew the guys would come back and get some big goals.”MAATTA SCORES HIS FIRST
Olli Maatta’s superb defensive skill has been on display since the puck dropped in the Penguins regular-season opener on October 3.
On Saturday afternoon, it was Maatta’s scoring touch that lifted him into the spotlight.
Maatta, 19, notched his first-career NHL goal at 13:12 of the third period, and it could not have come at a better time.Full story here
.CROSBY, MALKIN KEEP STREAKING
We’ve seen a lot from Crosby during his nine years in the league, but what he’s doing now to start this season feels like the beginning of something special.
Crosby tied the game at 1-1 in the first period with his league-leading (tied) seventh goal of the season. He added two assists, including one on Maatta's tying goal in the third period, to give him three points in the game. Crosby now has at least one point in all eight of Pittsburgh’s games (and four straight multiple-point games), his longest streak to start a season. His 17 points lead the NHL, six ahead of second-place Alex Steen.
Crosby’s linemates Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have also been producing for the Penguins. Kunitz also had a goal and two assists in the game to extend his point streak to four games (3G-5A) while Dupuis has at least a point in each of the last five games with his assist on Saturday (2G-5A-7P).
However, Crosby isn’t the only Penguins superstar who’s hot right now. Malkin’s assist on Kunitz’s power-play goal to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the second period extended his point streak to six games (3G-5A).SNAP SHOTS
* Deryk Engelland moved up to play forward for the second game in a row on Saturday. He played wing on the fourth line with Joe Vitale and Craig Adams.
One of the benefits of playing Engelland at forward instead of his usual defense displayed itself against the Canucks when he dropped the gloves with Tom Sestito in the first period. Engelland landed a number of nasty punches and left hooks in the fight, and when it was over, the other five defensemen didn’t have to cover for the five minutes he spent in the box. The forwards easily rotated during that time, no big deal.