image from espn.com
This seemed like a fairly straightforward win for the Pens. You improve your playoff position by taking care of the teams you’re supposed to beat. Especially at home, and that’s exactly what the Pens did here. I have a few thoughts, though:
- Kunitz put in a pair of goals. He hasn’t been as productive this year as most people had hoped. Maybe this will be a turning point for him.
- Fleury had a huge game with 37 saves on the day. He’s not very consistent this year, but when he’s on he’s almost a guaranteed win for the Pens.
- Tyler Kennedy had a fight about 10 minutes into the game. I’m not one for fighting in hockey, but this one really seemed to set the tempo for the game. TK’s always been the spark for the Pens, and he did it again tonight.
- The Islanders out-shot the Pens by 10, but I think the Pens definitely out-played them. It was one of those games where the Islanders were racking up the shots, but not getting too many quality looks.
- At the moment, the only race that really matters is the race between the Pens and the Devils for the Atlantic Division title. Jersey has a 1 point advantage with two games in hand. It’s a decent lead, but not insurmountable if the Pens start playing well after the Olympic break.
The Rangers are up next on Friday night. They got out to a decent start, but have struggled a lot as of late. I don’t see any reason the Pens can’t get a couple of more points out of that one.
image from espn.com
Man, what a weird hockey game. I mean, this had a little bit of everything in it. A penalty shot (seen above), a hit that will most likely get a suspension, a hat trick, a rare goalie penalty, and a blown lead and recovery just to name a few. I mean, what more could you ask for? Geez.
First and foremost, this was a game to get some monkeys off of the Penguins back. Malkin broke his scoreless streak with a freak goal in Vancouver. I was kind of hoping that seeing the puck go into the net would maybe start something for him, and boy did it. He came out and scored a hat trick tonight. More than that, he scored his usual type of goals: sniping on the power play. It was a great sign. Speaking of the power play, that also kicked itself out of a funk tonight going 4 for 7 on the night. That was probably the best sight.
We did give up a big lead, however. We stockpiled a 4-1 lead in the second period, and somehow let it slip back to a tie game in the third. I’m not sure exactly what happened. The Islanders definitely turned up the intensity, and we couldn’t match it. But we did eventually hit our stride with Malkin’s second goal and the game was over from there. That’s a little bit worrisome, but with the backup in net (Fleury has a broken finger), it’s understandable.
The big news after the game is the hit on Pascal Dupuis. I haven’t been able to find a video of it, but the basic gist of it is this: Dupuis was behind the net protecting the puck and waiting to make a pass. Andy Sutton winds up and hits him as hard as he can. Dupuis’ face slams into the corner of the boards and he’s bleeding pretty hard and seeing birdies for a while. It’s a boarding penalty that was especially bad because it was unnecessarily hard. It’s happened before, and the standard punishment has been 2 games. However, I thought for sure Gonchar would be suspended for his hit against the Wild and was not, so you just never know with the NHL. You can see a replay of the hit in the game recap I link to up top and make your own decision.
That’s about it. Crazy game, but maybe it can be a springboard towards getting things on the right track. If we can get the power play and Malkin working again, we’ll be a very dangerous team with or without Fleury.