The Pittsburgh Penguins ended six games of frustration Saturday night with a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins (8-15-6) picked up their first win since Nov. 22 and responded following Thursday’s 5-0 loss to Minnesota.
“[The effort] was 100 times better than it was Thursday. If we want to win some games, that’s how we have to play as a team for 60 minutes like we did [Saturday] night,” Penguins forward Maxime Talbot said. “It feels awesome; it’s a great feeling for everyone. We needed a game like that to understand what it takes to win.”
Mark Recchi set the tone for Pittsburgh. He scored the team’s first goal 10:35 into the game and assisted on the second goal.
“The way we played, I think everybody understands the commitment and what it’s going take to win hockey games in this league. Guys had to compete hard and we had to do a lot of good things and play with a lot of energy,” he said. “If we do that, we’re going to win seven out of 10 games and get ourselves back into position to make the playoffs. If we play inconsistently like we were before, we’ll just keep floating along. If we can grasp this feeling and run with it, we’ll be OK.”
Recchi ripped Matt Murley’s rebound past Colorado goalie Vitaly Kolesnik. Lasse Pirjeta earned the other assist. It was Recchi’s first goal since Nov. 12.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that the guys came out with a lot of energy and excitement and determination,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. “They weren’t going to be denied and they deserve all the credit, that’s for sure.”
Colorado tied the score with 3:56 left in the period. Milan Hejduk converted on a power play.
Dick Tarnstrom gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead with 1:32 left on the clock with a power-play goal. Recchi and Sidney Crosby earned assists.
Erik Christensen’s goal gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead in the second period. He deflected Sergei Gonchar’s shot into the net 1:22 into the frame. Gonchar fired a slap-shot from the far point and Christensen redirected the shot past Kolesnik. Brooks Orpik earned the other assist. It was Christensen’s fifth goal of the season.
Dan Hinote cut the Avalanche’s deficit to 3-2 when he punched in Rob Blake’s rebound with 5:20 to play in the second period.
Colorado threatened to score with about 14:50 remaining in the game, but Marc-Andre Fleury made a flailing glove save while spread out face-down on the ice. He caught a piece of a shot and his glove went flying.
“It was awesome to be playing [Saturday] night. You see all the guys giving 100 percent – lots of shots and lots of hits. We were able to score four goals, too, and that gave me more time to breathe and not be worried so much,” said Fleury, who stopped 23 of 26 shots. “That’s always great when you see a team starting so hard. I could tell it was going to be a fun night to play. I was just happy at the end to get the win. That was the most important part.”
Talbot gave the Penguins a 4-2 lead with 7:36 to go. Kolesnik stopped his initial shot, but Talbot was able to punch in his own rebound while sliding past Kolesnik on one knee. It was Talbot’s fourth of the season. Pirjeta earned the assist.
“I think we talked a lot lately about just putting the puck on net and driving to the net,” Talbot said. “That’s what I did and the puck was right on my stick. It was an awesome feeling winning the game and getting the game-winning goal.”
Colorado did cut the deficit to 4-3 when Marek Svatos scored from the top of the crease less than a minute later.
The Penguins return to action Monday at Detroit.
ICE CHIPS: Ziggy Palffy and John LeClair were the Penguins’ scratches…Mario Lemieux was placed on injured reserve…The announced attendance was 16,677…Wilkes-Barre/Scranton posted a 7-1 win over Manitoba. Rico Fata scored twice, while Guillaume Lefebvre, Stephen Dixon, Colby Armstrong and Ryan Stone all scored goals for the Baby Penguins.