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Total Team Effort Lifts Penguins To Third Consecutive Victory

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The National Hockey League should be aware, because the Pittsburgh Penguins big guns are heating up.

With the Penguins on the verge of beginning a three-game, eight-day road swing, the team is starting to click on all cylinders.

Led by the high-scoring exploits of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the team’s talented group of offensive defensemen and a red-hot power-play unit, the Penguins were able to blitz the Ottawa Senators, 5-2, on Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

“Going on the road, we are going to play some good teams that are playing well,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We are going to be tested. To be able to get two home wins and a good road win against Philly and have that feeling going on the road is definitely something that is a positive for us.”

“We needed some wins to get our confidence going,” added Alex Goligoski, who tied a career high by recording a point in his seventh straight game. “We are slowly getting to our game, but we are not quite there. Johnny (Brent Johnson) has been great in goal. We aren’t giving them as many opportunities. We have been playing pretty well.”

In addition to another big night by its top stars, Pittsburgh also received a second-straight two-point effort from Mark Letestu (1G-1A), a pair of helpers from Mike Comrie and 32 saves from Johnson, who improved to 4-0 in goal.

Suddenly, the Penguins find themselves on a three-game winning streak, all but erasing the slow start the team had to the season from everyone’s memory.

Crosby and Malkin continue to be at the forefront of the surge, as each tallied again on Monday to give the dynamic duo a combined five goals (Crosby, 4; Malkin, 1) and 11 points (Crosby, 6; Malkin 5) over their past four games.

“I feel like the two of us are getting better every game and contributing more points every game,” Malkin said. “The whole team is playing great right now. We don’t want that to stop.”

The Penguins also don’t want the red-hot production they are receiving from their power play to stop any time soon either.

Pittsburgh picked up a pair of man-advantage tallies for the second-straight game as Letestu and Crosby both scored within the first 13:53 of the opening frame.

With those goals, the Penguins are now 7-for-29 (24 percent) on the power play over the past five games.

“We have been trying to work on the power play at every practice to get better,” Malkin said. “We have been getting better every game.”

Pittsburgh also continues to receive secondary scoring contributions from Letestu and the team’s talented trio of offensive-minded blueliners, Goligoski, Kris Letang and Paul Martin.

Letestu scored the Penguins’ opening goal and added an assist on Malkin’s marker late in the first period to finish off his second straight two-point night.

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“I think it’s something Dan (Bylsma) was expecting from me when he made me a part of this team,” Letestu said. “He is expecting me to be a guy who can support Geno and Sid. Did he expect me to be a point per game guy? Probably not.”

Bylsma might not have been expecting seven points (4G-3A) in seven games from Letestu, but he did expect his gifted defensive trio to supplement the offensive attack.

Letang, Goligoski and Martin came through once again, as Letang scored a second-period even-strength goal while Goligoski (seven games) and Martin (three games) each extended their scoring streaks with assists.

Pittsburgh’s defense has now contributed 23 points (5G-18A) through seven games.

“As a group of five guys on the ice, we want our defensemen to be active,” Bylsma said. “We want them to be active coming out of the D-zone and in the offensive zone. …  They have gotten their points from all over the ice. They haven’t just gotten them on the power play or the rush. They have scored five-on-five like Kris Letang tonight.”

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