It was comeback déjà vu as the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Dallas Stars, 6-3, after an initial two-goal deficit at the beginning of the second period at Mellon Arena Saturday afternoon.
The scenario was eerily familiar to Thursday night’s game against the New York Rangers when the Penguins battled back after being down 4-2 in the second period to clinch a 5-4 overtime victory.
“I feel like when they took the lead, 3-1, we were like, ‘OK, let’s start playing,’” Maxime Talbot said. “It was an early game. You try to look for your legs, but when they took the lead, we couldn’t allow that in our building. We started to play. You saw the real Penguins in the second half of the game, and that’s how we need to play.”Chris Kunitz
took the first step at leading the comeback at 4:01 in the second period when he took a quick pass from Sidney Crosby
across the ice at the top of the near circle. He then sent a wrist shot over the glove of Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
Just five minutes later, it was Pascal Dupuis
who tied up the game, 3-3, at 9:10 into the second period. He took a pass from Kris Letang
at the far boards and scored his 15th of the season on the left side of the crease.
“We just went back to our system,” Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “Koony got a big goal. I think that just got us a lot more energy. I never doubted our guys. That is the thing about our guys – no matter what the score is, everybody still believes we can come back. We showed that today.”
To put the Penguins into the lead, Sidney Crosby
scored his 43rd goal of the season after grabbing his own rebound and creeping around the right side of the net. After trying to send a pass to Dupuis, the puck bounced off the shin pad of defenseman Trevor Daley and flew into the net.
But, it was his second goal of the game just minutes into the third period that clinched the team’s victory over the Stars. As the Penguins killed a five-on-three penalty, Crosby picked up a shorthanded goal after snatching up the puck in the neutral zone and sending a wrist shot past Lehtonen from the far circle.
“I think we would have scored at some point anyway in the third,” Crosby said. “I thought we were doing a good job, but that helps. You get a five-on-three against you, and a lot of different things can happen. We had a big kill there, and they had a lot of time to work with it. We had a big kill, and we were fortunate to get that next one.”
Newly acquired Alexei Ponikarovsky scored his first goal as a Penguin on a power play in the third period after he sent a wrist shot past Lehtonen’s right pad.
Crosby credits the team’s ability to make two huge comebacks in the past two games to taking the time to relax and practice the details of the system over the recent two-week Olympic break.
“A lot of guys had four or five days to work on things and get back to those little details that really make a difference throughout the game,” he said. “I’m sure guys feel a little bit refreshed, too, coming off a break like that. We’ve been moving our feet, and when you skate, a lot of things come to you. We’ve been skating well and really generating a lot because of it.”
More importantly, Crosby noted how the team’s outstanding penalty kill throughout the game helped the Penguins to secure the win.
“We had to kill a few there, and guys did a great job blocking shots,” he said. “That’s what you do on the penalty kill. It’s great for Ponikarovsky to get his first one on the power play. We try a lot of simple things sometimes, but that’s as simple as it gets right there. That was really good to get some production.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma also noted the effectiveness of the team’s multiple penalty kills.
“They have been real good all year, especially in the last 10 games,” he said. “There have been games where they have come up big again. Tonight was a great example. They had a five-on-three at the start of the third where they had a great chance to get back into the game. By the end of the penalty kill, we are up 5-3, and momentum is clearly in our favor.”
Ponikarovsky even noticed how the offense particularly erupted after each of the penalty kills created significant momentum for the team.
“Everybody worked hard, especially the penalty killers,” he said. “They killed a couple important penalties, and Sid basically got us back in the game with two goals. We battled hard. I was happy to just score a goal and win the game. The atmosphere on the bench was guys staying positive. It is a skilled team. Everybody knows that we can come back and score the goals. That is what happened. Everybody was working hard for it.”
With strong penalty kills and consistent shots to the net, Crosby knew that the outcome of the game would ultimately satisfy the Penguins.
“I think today it was just a matter of trying to regroup and respond after a not-so-good first half,” Crosby said. “We came out in the second half, especially today, and tried to be a lot better and got rewarded with some goals for it.”