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Post-Game Musings: at Pittsburgh

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
The game held league-wide intrigue because of the return of Russian sniper Alexander Radulov to the NHL -- and Radulov didn't disappoint, netting a goal in his season debut -- but it was another Russian who stole the show ... Evgeni Malkin was outstanding with two goals and 10 shots on goal, while controlling the play almost every time he took the ice, leading the Penguins to a 5-1 win on Thursday night. The Penguins moved to 13-0-1 in their last 14 games, having scored at least five goals in five of their last six outings as Malkin continues to strengthen his case for league MVP.

The Nashville Predators outshot the Pittsburgh Penguins in all three periods for a 30-23 shots advantage for the full game, but the Penguins scored twice in the first 4:06 and carried that to the win.

Radulov, the subject of headlines across the league all week, lived up to the billing; the line of Radulov with Patric Hornqvist and center David Legwand was effective for the majority of the game, which is very promising for Nashville’s long-term prognosis. Hornqvist had a team-high five shots on goal, Radulov very nearly netted a second goal in the opening moments of the third period, and Legwand hit the post on a crossing feed later in the third.

Now on the musings…

Slow Starts: All five of Pittsburgh’s goals came in the first 10:00 minutes of the periods, with four of the five coming within the opening 4:30 of the three frames. The Pens opened the scoring 1:23 into the game and extended the lead to 2-0 at the 4:06 mark of the opening frame; they made it 3-0 at the 1:58 mark of the second period and extended it out to 5-1 with a goal 2:03 into the third period.

Bourque Continues To Impress: Gabriel Bourque had another solid game tonight, finishing with four shots on goal, two hits, and one blocked shot in 14:25 of game action, using his speed to create opportunities while not hesitating to throw his body around when in tight traffic. He was far and away Nashville's best player in the first period of play and backed that up with consistent play in the second and third periods. Before the West Coast Road Trip, Coach Trotz said he was looking for players to separate themselves in the battle for ice time; Bourque appears to have taken the challenge to heart. This is his fourth consecutive strong game after being a healthy scratch in San Jose last week, proving an ability to be successful in a variety of roles: succeeding in a checking line role matched with Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Brandon Yip as well as creating offense with skill players like Andrei Kostitsyn (tonight), Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand (the two previous games). When Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson return from injuries, the coaches will have some tough roster decisions, but Bourque is making a very strong case to make sure he's not one of the odd men out.

Missed Opportunities: Despite the final score, the total scoring chances were fairly equal in tonight’s game. The Preds had numerous high quality chances, especially in the second period. On the first shift after the Penguins third goal, Andrei Kostitsyn set up Nick Spaling with an empty net, but Spaling shoveled the puck just wide of the far post. A few minutes later, Martin Erat took a two-on-one feed and deked Marc-Andre Fleury out of the net as he approached he goal line, but Erat was unable to control the puck behind the net on a wrap-around attempt and the Preds ended up without a shot on the play. On the first shift after Pittsburgh’s fourth goal, the Preds created a three-on-two rush through the neutral zone which resulted in a crossing feed to Sergei Kostisyn with a half open net, but Kostitsyn pulled the one-timer just wide. In the final minute of the second period, Fisher had an empty net from the center slot, but a Pens defender was able to get a stick in the way at the last instant to deflect the puck over the top of the net. Just to name a quick sampling of the Preds better chances tonight.

PIT F Evgeni Malkin – 2 goals; game-high 10 shots on goal
PIT F James Neal – 4 assists, +4 plus/minus rating
PIT G Marc-Andre Fleury – 29 saves

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