Everything you need to know from the Pens’ 6-3 triumph over the Islanders:
Entering tonight’s game, the Pens had dropped three of their last four decisions and were looking to get back on track.
And although the Islanders jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Penguins responded quickly and ended up with a resounding 6-3 victory.
“I thought our biggest challenge tonight was rebounding from where we’ve been the last couple games,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I thought tonight, a lot of guys stepped up in leadership and how we play and what we need to do.
“I thought they stepped up in a big way, especially considering getting down and giving up two goals to start.”
The Islanders drew first blood on Saturday, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead with just under eight minutes left in the opening frame.
But the Pens knew they couldn’t have another repeat performance of Thursday’s loss in Philadelphia, where they were sluggish through two periods and dug themselves a 3-0 hole before mounting a comeback (that fell just short) in the third.
So against the Islanders, the Pens regrouped and responded quickly with goals from Steve Sullivan
and James Neal
to even the score at 2-2.
“That was a great response by our team,” Neal said. “We knew they were going to come out and play the way they did. They’ve got skilled players and they’re going to put the puck in the net. We know that. And the way we responded was great. Guys step up night in, night out. It was just a great team effort.”
Sullivan’s goal came just 1:12 after Milan Jurcina scored the Islanders’ second tally, while Neal’s came with a mere 28 seconds remaining in the period.
“Getting down 2-0, certainly we were in a hole. But I thought if we were looking for a response, our team responded real well,” Bylsma said. “To get the goal right before the end of the period was a huge goal to draw even there.”
STEP RIGHT UP
The Pens suffered their latest loss on the injury front earlier this afternoon when it was announced that Jordan Staal
would miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury that has him as day-to-day.
That meant Pittsburgh was missing three centers (Staal, Sidney Crosby
and Richard Park
); five defensemen, including two of their top four (Kris Letang
, Zbynek Michalek
, Ben Lovejoy
, Robert Bortuzzo
and Brian Strait
) and another forward in Dustin Jeffrey
With the rash of injuries to the Pens’ lineup, the guys in the room have to step up in deliver – and they certainly did that on Saturday.
Not only did they spread out the offense, with Neal scoring twice and Steve Sullivan
, Matt Cooke
and Paul Martin
all chipping in one apiece. But in addition, certain players had to step up and shoulder different roles.
And while Bylsma likes his players to be versatile, we’re not sure Pascal Dupuis
playing center and Chris Kunitz
killing penalties is quite hat he had in mind – but that’s exactly what happened.
“A lot of guys kind of had different roles tonight,” forward Joe Vitale
said. “It’s a good character win. It’s fun to have wins like this. You’re banged up and you’re on the road, and kind of a greasy one like that, it’s good for the team morale, for sure.”
DUPUIS: EVER VERSATILEPascal Dupuis
has played 698 career NHL games. And before tonight, he had played center just one other time – earlier this season, “for a period and a half.”
But Dupuis handled the adjustment gracefully, shining on a line with Matt Cooke
and Tyler Kennedy
and scoring his ninth goal of the season.
probably had the biggest rearrangement in his role, playing center, taking draws as best he could,” Bylsma said. “He was out there in matchup situations with Cooke and Kennedy. That’s a big adjustment.”
“It’s a little adjustment, but it’s still a hockey game. I think it went OK,” Dupuis said.
Dupuis’ goal turned out to be the game-winner. He started the play when he won a battle with his defensive mark behind the Pens’ net to get the puck up the boards, then sprinted the entire length of the ice in time to receive a pass from Kennedy.
“On the game-winning goal, that’s a great defensive play,” Bylsma said. “He’s the centerman down low and to go the other way, he scores the game-winner from Kennedy.”
The Penguins had been struggling with the two-man advantage entering Saturday’s game, but they made a step in the right direction when they scored on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game at 3-3.
Sullivan took a shot from the slot area that Islanders goalie Al Montoya stopped, but had Kennedy and Kunitz wreaking havoc in the blue paint to get the rebound. It would be Neal who’d swoop in and whack home a garbage goal.
He said it was just a matter of keeping their mentality simple.
“Shooting the puck was a big thing. It’s definitely frustrating when you don’t score on a 5-on-3,” Neal said. “When you get that chance, it’s a big momentum swing, a big part of the game. So you’ve got to score goals on that.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo