Prior to Friday’s contest against Chicago, Penguins goalie Brent Johnson
had played just two periods in Pittsburgh’s previous four preseason games.
But although he hadn’t seen much game action prior to the game, Johnson played outstanding, finishing the game with 35 saves.
After being tested early and often and proving up to the task, Johnson withstood a strong Blackhawks push in the final frame – making 18 stops in the third period to withstand an aggressive Chicago rally.
His excellent play was main reason the Penguins earned a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks, improving to a perfect 5-0 in preseason play.
“He played unbelievable,” defenseman Kris Letang
said, who notched two assists and was named the game’s No. 1 star.
“With ‘Johnny,’ you always expect him to come out hard. He loves to get in the game and he always gives 100 percent. He played really well tonight.”
Chicago brought plenty of star power to the United Center, with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook all dressing for the Blackhawks -- and it was evident from the drop of the puck.
And though one may think getting so much work right off the get-go could be nerve-racking after such a long layoff, Johnson preferred just jumping right back into the fire.
It’s not something he’s unfamiliar with, being the veteran backup to Marc-Andre Fleury
and sometimes seeing long stretches between games during the regular season.
“It was nice I got a couple shots early,” he said. “I haven’t had that much game time in the preseason, so it was nice to get some shots early.
“But it was nice, I’ve been practicing hard with the guys on practice days. It’s just nice to get a good win in the preseason. Hopefully we can get something going here.”
And playing a team with that much skill was something Johnson enjoyed, embracing the challenge and agreeing that it was a nice tune-up for the regular season.
“It really is,” he said. “It seemed like they were kind of flying all over the ice. They were finding guys in the back door for passes and everything. You have to be sharp. Our D men and forwards tracking back were fantastic tonight, so you’ve got to give them praise.”SULLIVAN STANDS OUT
It didn’t take long for Steve Sullivan
to make his mark in his first preseason game with the Penguins.
The crafty veteran forward tallied in his inaugural game in a Penguins sweater when he slammed home a power-play goal with 3:35 left in the first period to open the scoring for Pittsburgh.
On the play, Evgeni Malkin
won the draw back to James Neal
, who re-directed it back to a waiting Kris Letang
Letang drifted toward the middle of the ice before finding a wide-open Sullivan on the opposite circle. Sullivan teed up the puck and blasted it past Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery for the score.
“He scored the goal and made a couple other good plays,” head coach Dan Bylsma said of Sullivan. “I think with the goal though, he doesn’t necessarily have the hardest shot in the world.
“But we run the faceoff play there, we have great net-front presence with ‘Geno’ and ‘TK’ and (Sullivan) has his head up and puts it in a spot where the goalie isn’t. Hard or not, it’s a goal that he gets and that’s what we’re looking for there on the power play.”
The Penguins have been spending a lot of time on these set plays in practices, and it was gratifying for them to see it executed so perfectly.
“It’s fun to see whatever we practice is paying off,” Letang said. “We stuck to our game plan and I thought we executed it.”