The Penguins’ power play had been powerless of late. Pittsburgh went 0 for 32 with the man-advantage coming into the game against the Atlanta Thrashers. The Penguins hadn’t scored a power-play goal in seven games, the longest stretch since 2003.
The Penguins finally had a power surge with two power-play scores, helping the team secure a 3-1 victory over Atlanta and ending the team’s five-game skid.
“Special teams are so crucial,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “It’s just a mentality to try to put more pucks at the net. We certainly repeat and repeat that (to) our players to put the puck at the net. Tonight, we capitalized on our chances.”
Therrien criticized his power play in the past for being too perimeter-oriented and trying to make the “perfect” pass. Therrien said the key to getting the power play going was getting players to be willing to go in front of the net and getting more shots.
Petr Sykora heeded his coach’s advice and snapped the power-play funk with a score late in the first period. Sykora withstood some punishment and stationed himself in front of the net. Whitney made a shot-pass from the point and Sykora re-directed the puck over Thrashers goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
“The goal I scored was a great pass, kind of like a shot-pass from (Whitney),” said Sykora, who finished the game with two goals. “You know, just keeping it simple even though we have a lot of talent out there. When it’s not going well, just get the pucks to the net.”
Crosby broke his own personal scoreless streak - he hadn’t scored a goal in his last seven games - by netting Pittsburgh’s second power-play score. Crosby, also listening to his head coach, set up atop the crease. Evgeni Malkin
sent a rising slap shot towards the goal. Crosby deflected the puck to the ice and behind Lehtonen.
I think we learned that if we want to win we have to stick up as a team and play hard every night. I think there is no easy night, no easy team. We definitely need to be altogether in it and work hard until the end. - Marc-Andre Fleury
“It was probably the least dangerous (chance) I had, but it went in,” Crosby said. “I’ll take it and I think it’s more important that the power play was able to convert. It’s going to help us as we move along.”
The power play helped the Penguins move past their lengthy losing stretch. Pittsburgh played with desperation and secured a much-needed win to break out of its five-game losing streak.
“We had a tough time, I think we had a very tough month and a half,” said Marc-Andre Fleury
, who made 27 saves in the game. “I think we learned that if we want to win we have to stick up as a team and play hard every night. I think there is no easy night, no easy team. We definitely need to be altogether in it and work hard until the end.”
“The win feels good,” Sykora said. “It’s nicer the next morning to wake up and go the rink. Every team has to go through it and I think the sooner you stop it, the better chance you have to come back.”
While the victory was a huge boost to the Penguins, it is only the first step towards crawling out of the abyss. Pittsburgh will have to build off this game and try to gain some momentum for its next stretch of games.
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for Pittsburgh. The Penguins set out for a three-game road trip that will take them to Nashville, Colorado and Philadelphia.
“We want to build off this,” Crosby said. “We played well even the game before this so as long as the effort’s there I’m always confident that our execution comes with that. So hopefully, that’s a trend that’s going to come along.”
“We have to even play smarter,” Sykora warned. “If you’re missing some guys just make sure your going to keep it simple. Keep the puck ahead; don’t give up a lot of goals. That’s another challenge for this team - especially with the team tonight. I think we can build on that and come up to Nashville, just play our game and get a win.”