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Special Teams Lead the Way

by Tom Mast / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins dominated the special teams battle in Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, drawing first blood with a power-play goal and scoring twice while shorthanded.

Head coach Dan Bylsma described the re-vamped power play that led to Sidney Crosby scoring the opening goal of the game.

“I liked the power-play configuration,” Bylsma said. “I like how we can spread it out.  I think with 71 (Evgeni Malkin) and 87 (Sidney Crosby) on each side of the ice, when Geno got the puck it made them respect that side of the ice a little more. 

“Two guys in front, net presence creates lanes and passing opportunities, shooting opportunities, and screening opportunities.  I like the way they looked. I think we’re still getting used to some of those situations, so all in all I liked getting the first goal on a shot on a second chance. I liked that aspect of our power play; I think it gave us a little bit of confidence as well.”

And Bylsma talked about the Penguins’ ability to turn the Flyers’ own power play against them, with Jordan Staal and Evegeni Malkin collecting shorthanded goals.

“Penalty killing, as much as we enjoyed the two shorthanded goals, I think in-zone these guys are dangerous, special teams is a big part of their game,” Byslma said. “I think we did a good job minus the quick faceoff play they got on their power play.  We did a good job in-zone and we’ll always take the shorthanded goals, two great efforts.”

Staal, who scored twice in the game, said that a lot of work goes into a solid penalty-killing unit.

“We have been working hard at it all throughout this year trying to get on the same page,” Staal said. “Everyone was doing a really good job. It was sugar on top to get a shorthanded goal.”

A Physical Rivalry

A Penguins-Flyers match-up means one thing: A physical, intense rivalry game. Tuesday’s affair did not disappoint, with three fights breaking out within 16 seconds of each other five minutes into the first period and 45 hits thrown by the two squads throughout the game.

Forward Mike Rupp was the first Penguin to unleash his fists of fury, dropping the gloves with Phildelphia’s Arron Asham.

“It’s got to be an in-your-face style,” Rupp said. “I think we were pretty excited about having a game like this. That’s a part of our game that hasn’t really surfaced in a while. So you get that itch.

“You get excited when you’re playing the Philadelphia Flyers. I’m sure they have guys in the same situation.”

After the dust settled from the first scuffle it only took Eric Godard six seconds to square off against Philadelphia’s Riley Cote, a long, drawn-out battle.

“We’re going to send a message,” Godard said. “We’re not going to back down. We’re going to play our game. We’re going to play physical and in-your-face and that’s sometimes part of it.”

Craig Adams was next in line and went up against Philadelphia tough-guy Dan Carcillo 10 seconds after the Godard fight. He felt it was the right time and place to drop the gloves.

“I think most of the time you have to be smart about it and do it on your own terms,” Adams said. “Emotions are high. They’re trying to win games over there and we’re trying to put points on the board. So it’s going to happen.”

Carcillo is a true NHL heavyweight and Adams showed a lot of heart and plenty of guts by standing up to him.

“I know Dan Carcillo pretty well and his ability when it comes to the fisticuffs,” Bylsma said. “He is a tough customer. Craig Adams doesn’t (fight) as much or isn’t renowned for it but he is a real strong guy and a real physical guy. He doesn’t back down from anybody. Kudos to Craig for standing up and making a statement and standing there against a tough guy.

The Penguins were simply tougher than Philadelphia Tuesday night, elevating their physical game to topple the Flyers.

“We’ve got guys going a good job of playing physical,” Rupp said. “There was an opportunity for it and we wanted to establish ourselves here at home tonight and get a big two points. It felt like we needed to let them know that they’re in for a couple tough games here.

“We do it for the guys on the team. We were going tonight and were not going to put up with some of their nonsense that they tend to do. I like the way that we came out.”

Fedotenko Continues to Roll

Ruslan Fedotenko has netted a goal in back-to-back games, scoring on a play set up by Godard and Malkin in Tuesday’s win.

Fedotenko is on the rebound after a goal-less drought that lasted 13 games.

“It’s good,” Godard said about Fedotenko’s recent scores. “I know he was getting a little frustrated with it. It’s good to see him get back on the board.”

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