The Penguins know that with superstars Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, they have to get contributions from players who have been thrust into more expanded roles.
Actions speak louder than words, and the Penguins embodied that on Saturday with their gritty 3-2 defeat of Carolina at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh was powered by goals from Dustin Jeffrey
, Mark Letestu and Pascal Dupuis
“Without them in the lineup, we need to score goals,” Dupuis said. “And the way we did it tonight, I think we played a good game.”
“It’s nice to get one, especially when goals are hard to come by as a group,” Letestu added. “So it was nice to get three tonight.”
Not only was it satisfying to get three goals from three different players, but head coach Dan Bylsma was most impressed with the method in which they came.
Jeffrey’s goal, which opened the scoring with 2:58 left in the second, came as the two teams were skating four-on-four. Letestu’s score came 2:22 into the third while the Penguins were on the power play, while Dupuis scored his five minutes later on a shorthanded rush.
“The way we got them, they were all special teams – which came up big for us – and in a four-on-four situation,” Bylsma said. “To get the lift from Jeffrey, a fresh call-up who got his second goal tonight four-on-four, and to get our power play a goal (and) Mark Letestu gets that goal for us – that’s how you need to win games as a team.”
And while Jordan Staal
didn’t score a goal, his all-around play carried the Penguins to victory, especially with two late goals by the Hurricanes with less than five minutes left to play that cut the Penguins’ lead to 3-2.
The center was a force on both ends of the ice. He fired five shots, played 20:30 of ice time and sent Dupuis off to the races with a beauty of a breakout pass that led to his shorthanded goal.
“He made a really good pass, a really good play,” Dupuis said. “He’s been playing some really, really good hockey lately.”
Staal is known for his defensive abilities, and he sure didn’t disappoint on Saturday. With seconds left in the game, Staal came up with a huge shot block before winning a crucial defensive zone faceoff that kept the puck out of the Hurricanes’ hands.
“We’ve had that situation a couple times in the past, letting teams back in and giving up a few goals late,” Bylsma said. “To be able to put Jordan out there with his strength in the middle, his defending ability down low against a guy like (Eric) Staal, who is their best player, is certainly a comfort we immediately went to, and again for the last 35 seconds.”
Staal’s just happy to contribute in any way he can to help his team win.
“We gave up two, but I think our effort was there and a lot of guys contributed in a lot of good ways,” he said.