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Notes & Quotes: Kunitz Keeps His Word

by Deborah Francisco / Pittsburgh Penguins
Thoughts, observations and comments from the Penguins’ 7-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kunitz Keeps His Word
It was time for Chris Kunitz to score a goal in the playoffs. Going into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, the 6-foot, 193-pound left winger had yet to tally a goal in the postseason.

“You want to help out,” Kunitz told media prior to Game 2. “You want to be contributing in all ends and in all aspects of your game. That’s something that I have to step up and start doing.”

Well, Kunitz stepped up just as he promised with 7.5 seconds left in the second period when he netted a dramatic goal that gave the Penguins a 4-3 lead going into the third period.

There was a four-player scrum in the far corner but Kunitz emerged victorious with the puck. He skated it around the near faceoff dot, turned and wristed it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward.

“I worked the puck out of the corner and took it to the net where there was an open lane,” Kunitz said. “I put it on net and it found its way in for the goal.”

But for Kunitz, the long-awaited goal wasn’t a big deal in the end – he was just happy to get one for the team.

“It definitely feels good but with our team, we are a close group in the locker room and no one really cares who is scoring the goals, it’s more about the win,” Kunitz said. “Personally it felt good to get it done, but we have been having a lot of guys score goals that maybe aren’t expected to and stepping up.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma was sure to explain that Kunitz’s lack of scoring was never due to a lack of effort. In fact, Bylsma was downright pleased with Kunitz’s play going into Thursday night’s game.

“I wasn’t really concerned about him not scoring goals,” Bylsma said. “The credit to him is that he played the right way over and over again … I’m happy for him. I’m happy so that he can stop having to hear that he hasn’t scored in a while. He knows that he has played the right way and he knows that he has had a physical presence for our team. It’s good to see him get on the score sheet but he did a lot of other good things tonight … Good for him to get the goal.”

Those other things Bylsma is talking about include the four hits, five shots, plus-3 rating and two assists that Kunitz tallied in addition to his goal. Kunitz certainly stepped up and contributed in all aspects of his game, just like he said he would.

Six Pack
The Penguins tallied an unprecedented six goals against Carolina netminder Cam Ward during the game, the most goals that the 6-foot-1, 200-pound goaltender has ever allowed in a playoff game.

“You have to be surprised with this goal production,” Bylsma explained. “Both goaltenders are outstanding. You try to play in the offensive zone for a reason. It’s tough to deal with chances and second chances and both teams did a good job of that. Fortunately, in the third period our guys were able to do it two more times.”

The Penguins though, have learned to elevate their offensive play no matter who is between the pipes for their opponent. They outshot the Hurricanes, 42-28, in the game.

“We know Ward is a solid goalie, he is steady, but what makes us successful doesn’t depend on the goalie we play,” Crosby said. “You are going to get traffic and there are going to be rebounds and you have to execute. It comes down to making the most of your chances.”

The Penguins were also surprised by the fact that 11 even-strength goals were scored in the game, a rarity in the postseason.

“I was really surprised,” Crosby said. “We certainly didn’t expect that, and I’m sure they didn’t. It’s probably not a night that goaltenders want to be a part of. It’s just something you don’t see a lot of in the playoffs. When there are nights like that you have to find ways to win. You have to respond. Both teams are pretty resilient and we got that big sixth goal there to make it 6-4 on a night when it’s going back and forth like that. To get that extra one, it’s big.”

The Record Setter
Sidney Crosby’s game-opening goal at 1:51 of the first period marked his sixth game-opener of the playoffs and which tied the NHL playoff record for game-opening goals with Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks set in 1962. The record was also accomplished by Fernando Pisani of the Edmonton Oilers in 2006.

Kunitz set up Crosby’s opening tally when he skated the puck from behind the net and then passed it out front to Crosby who batted the puck past Ward for the record-tying score.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we create a lot from the offensive zone and not forcing plays,” Crosby explained.
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