As the games become increasingly playoff-like with the regular season winding down, it’s only fitting that the Penguins spread out the offense on Saturday against the Avalanche as secondary scoring is critical in the postseason.
Eleven different Penguins got on the scoresheet as Pittsburgh topped Colorado, 5-1, at Pepsi Center for their fifth straight win.
“We’ve got a very deep team. There are guys on every line that can score,” said forward Arron Asham
, who came one assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick.
“We can’t leave the scoring all up to ‘Geno’ (Evgeni Malkin
), ‘Staalsy’ (Jordan Staal
) and ‘Nealer’ (James Neal
). We’ve got to spread it out. That’s how good hockey teams win, and that’s how you’re going to win in the playoffs.”
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
held the fort during an early surge from the Avalanche and continued his strong play throughout the game, making 35 saves to get his 34th win of the season.
“It was kind of nice to get some shots in the beginning and get into it,” Fleury said.
The Penguins answered the surge with goals from Asham and defenseman Deryk Engelland
1:22 apart in the first period, and from there on it was all Pittsburgh.
Malkin, Richard Park
and Steve Sullivan
also scored for the Penguins.
“That’s nice to see everybody contribute. I’m happy for these guys,” Fleury said. “They always work hard every night, so it’s nice for them to get some goals, too.”
The win ensured that the Penguins would return to Pittsburgh with all four points from their two-game road swing through the Western Conference, as they topped Dallas in a shootout, 4-3, on Wednesday night.
“We came on the road expecting to win both games,” Asham said. “We had a good battle in Dallas. We came here and we knew they’re fighting for a playoff spot and they’re a hungry team. We came out a little slow, but we got some big timely goals and big saves by ‘Flower,’ and it was a big two points for us. We’ve got to go home now and focus on the next game.”
The Penguins were missing All-Star defenseman Kris Letang
on Saturday, as he is experiencing “symptoms” from a hit sustained in the first period of Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout win over Dallas and will be reevaluated by doctors upon returning to Pittsburgh.
But despite missing their top defenseman, the Penguins’ six remaining blueliners came together to step up and fill the void with a solid all-around performance. Ben Lovejoy
played well in his third game of the Penguins' last 18, finishing with three shots and three hits.
And not only were they stingy in their own end, but Pittsburgh’s blueliners also contributed offensively. Engelland scored his fourth goal of the season, Paul Martin
and Brooks Orpik
each recorded two assists and Zbynek Michalek
earned one helper in the Penguins’ 5-1 victory.
Letang is the team leader in minutes played, averaging 25:03 of ice time per night, and the Penguins coaching staff did a fine job of spreading those minutes evenly throughout the players’ workloads tonight:Brooks Orpik
: 23:03 minutesPaul Martin
: 22:03 minutesZbynek Michalek
: 18:24 minutesDeryk Engelland
: 18:19 minutesMatt Niskanen
: 18:12 minutesBen Lovejoy
: 15:59 minutes
When you face a desperate team like the Avalanche, who entered the game just three points out of the playoff picture, the game is bound to get chippy at some point.
And on Saturday, even the goalies joined in on the feistiness.
It began when Avalanche netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere stirred the pot with Penguins forward Matt Cooke
in the second period. Cooke was heading into the corner for a puck when Giguere interfered with him and knocked him to the ground.
As Cooke got up and voiced his displeasure, Giguere decked him with a punch and all of the skaters on the ice rushed to defend their teammates, while Fleury skated all the way up to the blue line before eventually retreating back into his net.
“I don’t like to see goalies going after our guys,” Fleury said. “I kind of feel responsible for them. But we had a power play and we were still doing well, so the coaches looked at me to go back. So I went back in my crease.”
Giguere got a roughing penalty on the play.
Fleury was then involved in a slight altercation of his own with Avs forward Steve Downie in the third period.
After Fleury lost his stick on a play and bent over to pick it up, Downie decided to poke it away from the Penguins goalie. That didn’t please Fleury, who whacked Downie in the legs with the stick once he retrieved it. Downie immediately retaliated. Deryk Engelland
rushed to protect his goalie and a melee broke loose.
“I was going to grab my stick because it was on the ice, and he poked it to get it away from me,” Fleury explained. “So then when I grabbed it, I just gave him a little something and he crosschecked me.”
Engelland and Fleury both got minors on the play while Downie got one as well, and the goalie was happy that Engelland came to his aid.
“Definitely,” Fleury grinned. “A little rumble in front, but it didn’t last too long when 'Engo' came in."
Forward Steve Sullivan
’s status for this game had been uncertain, as he sustained a lower-body injury in Wednesday’s game that caused him to miss the third period of that game and the following two days of practice.
But he participated in Saturday’s morning skate and said afterward that the time off was exactly what he needed and that everything was “great” heading into the game.
And he proved that with his play on Saturday, as the veteran winger continued his hot streak by scoring a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to seven games.
He now has three goals and eight assists over that span.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo