The Penguins have returned to their winning ways with back-to-back home victories over the Boston Bruins, 6-5 in overtime on Saturday, and 5-2 on Monday against the Anaheim Ducks. While the return of Evgeni Malkin
, who has three assists in two games, has provided an energy boost, it is the contributions provided by the recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton recalls which is providing a difference for the Penguins.
With Monday’s addition of Alex Goligoski (lower body; out 2-3 weeks) to an injury report which already included Kris Letang
(shoulder contusion), Brooks Orpik
(lower body) and Sergei Gonchar (broken left wrist), Beaver County native Nate Guenin came up from WBS to make his Penguins’ debut, joining fellow recent call-ups Deryk Engelland
and Ben Lovejoy
. All three supplied quality performances to help spur the victory.
“We needed them, we didn’t have many options there,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. We had to throw them into the fire against some really good players at different times and put them on the power play in different situations.
“They made smart plays with the puck and they made some smart plays defensively and to get to the offensive zone and get to our strength in the offensive zone. They played real well.”
Engelland and Lovejoy have now spent a few days in Pittsburgh and with that has come a great feeling of being comfortable with both their surroundings and new teammates out on the ice.
Engelland has now spent the past three games playing with veteran Mark Eaton, and that pairing was effective at both ends of the rink on this night, as each player recorded a plus-3 rating.
“Playing with Eats (Mark Eaton), he makes the game easy and talks a lot and kind of directs you where to go,” Engelland said. “It kind of makes it a lot easier.”
Speaking of easy, that was how Engelland described the sequence which led to his first National Hockey League point. Engelland corralled a loose puck at the top of the Penguins zone and fed a perfect pass to Staal, who beat Anaheim netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a gorgeous power move for a shorthanded goal.
“It was a pretty wide-open pass … Not too often will I make that play, but when I do, it’s a good feeling,” Engelland said.
“I am not really known for my points but when I can get them it’s a bonus. When it comes on the PK it’s a big goal for our team.”
Lovejoy had another solid night for himself as well, pairing up with Martin Skoula. He logged a career-high 18:30 of ice time, and gave himself points in consecutive games for the first time in the NHL with his primary assist on Skoula’s first goal as a Penguin.
Skoula believes Lovejoy and company getting more and more time with the Penguins has allowed them to settle their nerves and contribute to the team’s success.
“There are a lot of new faces but the style we want to play is the same,” Skoula said. “We want to get the puck up as fast as we can and spend as much time as we can in the offensive zone. I think that we played pretty well.
“I think they are getting settled a little bit and it is going to show on the ice as they feel more comfortable.”
In addition to his time at even-strength, Lovejoy saw regular duty on the power play for the first time in his brief career, beginning the game on the second unit but progressing to the top one during the latter stages of the game as the Penguins protected a two-goal lead.
“I started with the second unit on the power play and when we got up a few goals I went out there on the first unit kind of as a defensive replacement,” Lovejoy said. “They put (Evgeni) Malkin up front. My job when I’m out there is to get pucks to the net and hopefully guys can bang in rebounds. I’m not going to do anything too fancy, that’s my goal.”
Guenin did not look out of place or show any nerves despite being a homegrown player making his Mellon Arena debut in a Penguins sweater.
“It was cool,” Guenin said. “Exhibition was pretty neat but getting a regular-season game under my belt felt really good.”
He nearly picked up a point late in the first period when he stepped up at the Ducks blue line to knock the puck from the stick of an Anaheim player, racing to the loose puck and firing a pass to Malkin alone on Giguere’s doorstep. The Anaheim netminder made a huge save to keep it a one-goal game.
Guenin said after that the similarities between the systems played in Pittsburgh and WBS made his adjustment seem almost seamless.
“Yeah, that is the big thing with WBS and Pittsburgh – everything is the same. That is awesome because when you get called up and put in that situation you feel comfortable with all the terminology. It makes the transition all the more easier.”
Guenin saw 14:42 of ice time in the win and tied Engelland for second on the squad with five hits.
Bylsma was plenty pleased with what he received from each, and expects much of the same as the Penguins embark on an upcoming three-game road swing.
“The good thing about bringing up the guys that we have is they are capable of playing the way we want to play,” Bylsma said. “We need to gut it out sometimes. To our credit we battled and worked. It is not as pretty as some of our other wins this year, but it is two big points heading onto the road.”