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by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Penguins forward Matt Cooke said he is adjusting certain aspects of his game. What he failed to mention is that he’s turning himself into a sniper – at least for one night.

Cooke, playing against his former team, scored two goals with a power-play and shorthanded tallies to help the Penguins start the season with a win in a 4-3 shootout triumph at Vancouver Thursday night.

“I was just trying to have the best game I can,” Cooke said. “You just go with whatever comes. I feel a sense of joy being out there with my teammates and being able to help them play. Fortunately, tonight I was able to chip in offensively.”

Cooke was in the right place at the right time on a power play to score his first goal. Sneaking through the defense, he stationed himself to the right of the net and was the recipient of a no-look pass from Pascal Dupuis, who was behind the net. Cooke quickly buried the shot past a surprised Roberto Luongo.

On his second tally, Cooke carried the puck down the near side with his team disadvantaged by one player. Using Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieska as a screen, Cooke snapped a hard shot from the circle that eluded Luongo and accelerated inside the top far corner.

“Dupuis made a great pass on the first one and I just tried to get the puck on the net on the second one being shorthanded,” Cooke said.

However, what impressed head coach Dan Bylsma the most in the contest wasn’t Cooke’s scoring touch – though he was certainly pleased with the additional offensive – but it was the way he played away from the puck.

“He was physical a couple times, he blocked shots, the penalty kill he was effective,” Bylsma explained. “That’s really where Matt Cooke is an effective player and can be a good player. The goals are a bonus. It’s a real solid game in a lot of areas where Matt can be good.

Cooke played the first 9-plus seasons of his career with Vancouver after the club drafted him in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft (6th round, 144th overall). And his teammates were happy to see Cooke play well in his homecoming.

“He played before here. He showed us a great game,” Evgeni Malkin said. “I’m glad he scored two goals.”

And even though Cooke is now on pace to score 164 goals this year, Bylsma

“I can be real clear, we didn’t totally change Matt Cooke into a goal scorer or make that attempt,” he said. “I think you saw that Matt could play a pretty good game away from the puck.

“We’ll let him go on the two-goal pace for a while.”
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