Everything you need to know from the Penguins' 5-3 victory over the Flames:
MIDDLE FRAME MAGIC
The Flames came out – well, on fire (pun intended) – right from the start, putting the Penguins on their heels early and taking a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. But Pittsburgh regrouped during the first intermission to take total control of the game in the middle frame.
“They outbattled and outworked us a lot in that first period and that was really the adjustment we made, is we had to get better and battle harder and expect them to play that way,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Our guys responded real well and came out and played much better.”
The Penguins scored four answered goals from Tyler Kennedy
, Matt Niskanen
, Craig Adams
and Evgeni Malkin
in the middle frame to take a 4-1 lead and a 25-9 advantage in shots into the third period. Their second-period outburst would prove to be vital, as the Flames rallied to come within one goal in the third – before Jordan Staal
scored an empty netter to give the Penguins a 5-3 win.
“We got our legs going, I think, and started attacking them more,” Niskanen said. “Really put the heat on them in the second and got rewarded with some goals. … They made it interesting toward the end, but we did enough good things to win.”
The Penguins’ special teams success was a storyline Thursday against Vancouver, and certainly was again Saturday versus Calgary. If we could write about Pittsburgh’s success on special teams for every one of the Penguins’ remaining 80 games, we wouldn’t complain because of how important that aspect of the game is.
Pittsburgh finished 2-for-5 on the man advantage, with goals from Niskanen and Evgeni Malkin
, which puts them at 4-for-8 in their past two gamesl. They have now scored at least one power-play goal in five straight regular-season games dating back to last season on April 5 vs. New Jersey.
The Penguins also ended the night a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
“That’s a good start. That’s right where we want to be,” Niskanen said. “Sometimes when you don’t have your A game for a full 60 minutes, special teams can put you over the edge to get you the win.”
Niskanen, acquired in the trade that brought him and James Neal
to Pittsburgh in exchange for defenseman Alex Goligoski in late February, had an outstanding training camp – proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he deserved a spot in the Penguins’ defensive corps. He’s carried over that solid play into the regular season, evidenced by his two-point effort vs. the Flames.
Niskanen, paired with Ben Lovejoy
, gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead with 13:20 left on a solid effort when he collected his own rebound, then grabbed THAT rebound before stuffing it home. He then earned an assist on the Penguins’ next goal, when his blast off a set faceoff play rebounded to Mark Letestu – who fed Adams for the score.
Niskanen finished with six shots (plus four more blocked attempts and one that missed the cage) through 17:20 of ice time.
COOKE AND MALKIN
The Penguins had a bit of a scare when forward Matt Cooke
collided with Flames defenseman Cory Sarich with just under seven minutes left in the second period. Cooke appeared a little dazed after the play and went to the dressing room afterwards per league protocol to get checked out.
He missed the remainder of the period, but was back on the bench for the start of the third. Cooke is still the Penguins’ leading goal scorer with two.
Malkin, meanwhile, saw limited ice time during the third period. Bylsma said after the game that Malkin, who had torn ligaments in his right knee surgically repaired in February and is seeing his first consistent regular-season game action since then, was "a little sore."
"He's played a lot of hockey and it was a little sore," Bylsma said. "The score dictated that we were going to keep him off the ice. ... Given the score and the situation of playing a lot of hockey with a game (Sunday), we were just not putting him on the ice."
Looks like Jordan Staal
-- who had left Thursday's game vs. Vancouver in the third period with cramping and dehydration -- drank plenty of water before Saturday's game, as he put forth a monster performance.
He excelled offensively, assisting on Niskanen's goal that got momentum swinging back in Pittsburgh's favor and icing the victory with an empty-net goal with just four seconds left in regulation. Staal's helper was his 200th career point. The strong two-way center also excelled defensively for the Penguins, especially when the game got tight towards the end.
Penguins center Joe Vitale
also had a fantastic game, taking shifts on the third line between Matt Cooke
and Pascal Dupuis
. He took a whopping 20 faceoffs and won 11 for a 55-percent success rate. Vitale’s ice time in the third nearly doubled his total from the first two periods as the Penguins put their top defensive forwards on the ice to protect their lead.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo