EDMONTON, ALBERTA – As the Penguins sat in their locker room during the second intermission, they found themselves in a 2-0 to the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. In the first two frames they were outshot, 22-17, and constantly frustrated by Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk.
With the Penguins playing on back-to-back nights against a rested opponent and in the middle of a grueling five-game, nine-day road trip, the stage was set for the team to suffer one of those hard luck losses. But the Penguins would have none of it.
“In the room at the second intermission, some guys talked,” forward Pascal Dupuis
said. “We stayed positive and there was stuff that needed to be said. We said it in a positive way. We have a guy like Billy Guerin getting up in the room and saying the right things. Guys were following.”
The Penguins followed alright, following through with three unanswered goals to transform a would-be loss into a 3-2 victory over the Oilers to improve to 3-1 on the current road excursion.
Our guys made a decision on the bench and made a decision in the room that we had another level to get to. We had enough time to do it. We played a real strong third. With two games in two nights, being able to come out in the third and dig down, show some character and get the win says a lot about the guys in that room - Dan Bylsma
“Our guys made a decision on the bench and made a decision in the room that we had another level to get to,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had enough time to do it. We played a real strong third. With two games in two nights, being able to come out in the third and dig down, show some character and get the win says a lot about the guys in that room.”
“It wasn’t our best effort at the beginning of the game,” said Jordan Staal
, who assisted on all three Pittsburgh goals. “I don’t know if it was playing last night but that’s no excuse. I thought we showed a lot of character in the third period coming back and winning it.”
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
, who made 33 saves to earn his 25th victory of the season, was instrumental in the comeback. He made several great saves to keep it a two-goal game, including a poke check on a Dustin Penner breakaway and blocking down a Fernando Pisani shot on a two-on-one opportunity.
“Those two saves in the third,” Bylsma said, “when you talk about what Marc-Andre Fleury
has done at different times in his career it’s not always the greatest but he comes up with big saves when his team needs it. If we don’t get those two saves it’s a different story. That’s what Marc has done in the past. He did it tonight.”
Penner came streaking down the near side all alone with the puck. He tried to make a move near the top of the crease but Fleury reached out with his stick and swatted the puck out of danger.
“I know that (Penner) has a long reach and can go pretty far out,” Fleury said. “At the same time I knew it was a save I had to make in the game to keep the score at 2-0. I knew if I made that save then our chances of coming back in the game were good.”
“He made a few big saves for us tonight but that was a big one,” Staal said of Fleury’s stop on Penner. “It could have been a game changer. Flower does a great job of finding ways to win games, stopping those big ones at the right time.”
Fleury’s brilliant performance set the stage for the dramatic comeback. But it wasn’t the usual actors that headlined this show.
In a game featuring superstars Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
, it was the Penguins energy players – Tyler Kennedy
, Matt Cooke
, Staal and Dupuis – who rose to the occasion, figuring in on all three Penguin tallies.
“Their line is together in that growing maturity,” Bylsma said of the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy combination. “They do a lot of good work and they lay it out there a lot. Sometimes they get a little frustrated with how they play and not getting success. Tonight they worked hard. They weren’t getting success but they stuck with it. They came up huge for us in the third period with getting those goals. They’re getting better at staying with their game and keep working regardless of if they’re getting results or not.”
Kennedy sparked the comeback by breaking Dubnyk’s shutout bid when his snap shot eluded the Oilers netminder at the 3:18 mark of the third period.
The Penguins pulled even with a power-play tally at the tail end of a man advantage. Staal carried the puck down the slot and threw a shot on net. Dubnyk kicked out the rebound. Cooke collected the puck and lifted a beautiful backhander over a sprawling Dubnyk.
Just like that, in a 3:30 minutes span, a 2-0 deficit was erased the game was all tied up.
The Penguins took their first lead of the contest thanks to Dupuis. The Quebec native positioned himself right in the heart of the crease while working on a line with Staal and Cooke. Staal had the puck behind the net and his centering pass went off of Dupuis’ blade and across the goal line to give Pittsburgh the edge.
“It’s always nice to contribute,” Staal remarked. “We just kept it simple, got on their D, try to create turnovers and create offensive chances for our team. I thought in the third we did a great job of that.”
“For the most part we are out there trying to lead by example,” said Cooke, who posted a goal and assist in the contest. “Shut down the top line if we get that matchup and play in the offensive zone and do things the right way. Staalsy had a great game. We got on the board three times and could have had two or three more.”
Now the Penguins finish off their “Western Canadian” trip with a Saturday showdown in Vancouver against the Canucks. Pittsburgh has already earned six of a possible eight points on the current road swing, their longest road-trip of the season, and would love to finish it off on a strong note.
“It’s been a good road trip,” Cooke said. “We are 3-1 right now. To have the opportunity to be 4-1 is awesome.”
“This trip is a big trip. We started good and with another win it could be a great trip.” Author: Sam Kasan