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Kennedy Settling Into Expanded Role

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
DENVER – Tyler Kennedy isn’t Sidney Crosby.

And no offense to Kennedy, but he never will be.

And that’s OK with him. He’s more worried about playing like Tyler Kennedy than Sidney Crosby.

“I just stick with what I do normally,” Kennedy said. “I’m not going to play out of my element. I’m just going to play like Tyler Kennedy.”

But Kennedy, who scored the Penguins’ game-winning goal with a power-play tally to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 win over Colorado at Pepsi Center, has been scoring goals (five in the last seven games) in a very Crosby-esque stretch.

“I feel a little bit more comfortable out there,” Kennedy said. “I’m really settling in, so it’s nice.”

Kennedy’s recent scoring outburst can be attributed to his extra power-play time. In fact, four of his five goals in the seven-game stretch have been scored on the man-advantage.

“The power play has given him an opportunity to be more of a shooter,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You see that at times from him when he scores his goals. He’s been able to do that on the power play, and I think you see that carry over to the five-on-five play.”

“Whenever you get on the power play, it’s an added bonus,” Kennedy said. “There’s a little bit of pressure, but we have great guys on the power play. We just have to do our jobs.”

Kennedy became the hero of the Penguins’ first victory in Denver since a 3-2 win on Feb. 25, 1999, with just 50 seconds remaining in overtime.

Pittsburgh was working on a four-on-three power play when Alex Goligoski ripped a shot from the point. Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj kicked a fat rebound right to the far circle where Kennedy, on his forehand, instantly snapped the puck into the netting.

“I passed it out to (Goligoski), he shot it on net and it came right out to me,” Kennedy said. “I was trying to put it on net and it went in. I was glad to see it go in.”

Penguins forward Joe Vitale hit a career milestone against the Avalanche.

He streaked down the middle of the ice and split two Colorado defenders to receive a pass from Brett Sterling.

With the puck on the tape of his stick, Vitale whipped a perfect shot into the top corner of the net over the shoulder of Budaj. The score was Vitale’s first-career NHL goal.

“I had a burst of speed going, Sterling came over the blue line and their defenseman got caught outside the dots,” Vitale said of the play. “I cut to the middle with speed. Sterling made a great pass. I caught it on my backhand.

“I gave the goaltender one look and didn’t see much open so I tried ripping it as hard as I could. The next thing I know I saw the red light go on, so it was exciting.”

To make the moment even more special for Vitale is the fact that his family was in the building to see him get his first NHL goal.

“Four games in, I didn’t think it was going to happen this quick,” Vitale said. “It’s a special moment. My mom and my sister are here. It’s special to do it in front of them.

“I’ll have the puck forever.”
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