The Penguins’ 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night marked the conclusion of a season-long eight-game homestand. The Penguins earned 13 points out of a possible 16 with a 6-1-1 record during the stretch.
“We wanted to take advantage of (the home stand) and we said that from the start,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “It was a good scenario but we still had some good games to win. We did a great job here and we just keep going. Things aren’t getting any easier. We’re winning, but we’re still right in the (playoff) mix. So, we just have to keep going.”
Perhaps the Penguins’ success on the homestand goes back to the momentum gained from their historic 5-0-0 road trip last month.
“I think that if you look at our road trip previous to our homestand, we went 5-0,” Cooke said. “We’ve really been on a good push. We go at each game the same. We approach each game not looking forward and not looking back. I think right now we just trust each other. We’re playing and skating forward as well as backward and we’re having fun doing it. That’s the key.”
“Coming into this homestand after coming off the road (trip) and the way we played, we wanted to make sure that we took care of business at home, played the right way, used our crowd to our advantage and played in the offensive zone," interim head coach Dan Bylsma said. "At the end of these eight games, I think we come back and say, we accomplished that; we put ourselves in a situation where we wanted to be.”
The Penguins certainly look like they are having fun, and they’re beating some tough competitors while they’re at it.
“(The win was) extremely important,” Bylsma said. “I can say that safely now, looking back. You don’t want to put too much pressure or focus on the wrong things, but this was a big game to finish up the homestand against a team that was desperate to get back to their game and the way they could play."Besting Brodeur
The Penguins were certainly prepared to face the NHL’s winningest goalie, Martin Brodeur, and peppered the veteran goalie with 37 shots in the contest. Pittsburgh was delighted and surprised with its six goals against the Hall of Fame netminder.
“We didn’t expect that, that’s for sure,” Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “The guys did a good job all night for 60 minutes, they played well. To be able to get six goals on Marty is pretty big.”
Bylsma prepared his team to face Brodeur by preaching a “second-chance mentality.”
“We talked about not trying to beat him with one shot,” Bylsma explained, “not thinking you needed one great shot to beat him, but looking for a second-chance mentality, looking for rebounds, trying to bang that one home, that was really one of the keys.
“They have good players and they are a good team. They have a good goalie and they are well coached. They’ve proven it through most of the year. That’s what we were preparing for, that’s what we were getting ready for and, again, we wanted to focus on how we needed to play. We did a good job of that tonight.”
The contest against the Devils was the first meeting between the division rivals since the Penguins re-defined their identity under the tutelage of Bylsma.
"The Devils hadn’t seen us play yet," Bylsma said, "and we wanted to play the kind of game that they hadn’t seen from us, which was getting to the offensive zone, play there, make them deal with our speed, make them deal with us in the offensive zone. So that was our mindset going in and you try to leave the other thoughts and the other people out of your mind and focus on the task at hand."
“I don’t think we were expecting anything but a tough game, and we capitalized on our chances,” Crosby said. “We didn’t change the way we played or let up at all, which was good. We needed to make sure that we kept doing the same things. Even when it’s 4-1 or 5-1 or whatever it was early - there is still a lot of time to get back in the game. We did a good job of keeping things together and capitalized on chances we got, especially early.”Work to Do
It would be easy for the Penguins to kick back and glide into the postseason on the tail of their numerous victories, however, the team is well aware of the difficult road ahead.
“We’re not even in the playoffs yet,” Crosby pointed out. “We’re taking some really good steps though, and it’s good to see everyone collectively playing good. That doesn’t always happen. That’s a great sign.”
Everyone collectively rallied to defeat New Jersey as six different players netted the Penguins’ six goals and 13 players tallied a point in the game. With the victory and Philadelphia’s 3-2 loss at Toronto, the Penguins and Flyers are tied for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with 92 points, though Pittsburgh has played one more game.
“We have guys behind us and teams that are catching us, and we are trying to catch Philly,” Fleury said. “I think we are pretty close right now. They have some games-at-hand but we want to keep on winning and that would be huge. It would be home-ice advantage, so hopefully we can catch them.
“The way we have been playing now is laced with confidence and we’ve beaten a lot of teams lately, good teams. We’ll see, I guess we’ll see.”
“Minus the three points we left out there (on the homestand) we were trying to form an identity in a short amount of time,” Bylsma said. “Part of that is how you play at home, part of that is how you play on the road and part of that is playing the same way for 60 minutes. It’s a huge win and, like every game, you learn the lessons, you know what you did well and you work on what you didn’t do well and you get ready for the next opponent.”