Pittsburgh Penguins' 5 Most Impressive Individual Performances in 2013-14

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIMarch 26, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins' 5 Most Impressive Individual Performances in 2013-14

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    The NHL season is the most grueling in all of sports. Baseball players take part in more contests, but they aren't nearly as physically demanding. Tack on the possibility of playing through four seven-game series en route to the Stanley Cup, and it's clear that hockey is a team game.

    One forward can't win the whole thing by himself, and it's impossible for a goalie to score enough goals to make a 42-save shutout stand up over and over—though it wouldn't be surprising to see Jonathan Quick try.

    Still, sometimes a player has an outstanding game, and it really does seem like he took the team on his back. With only 10 games remaining in the regular season, it felt like a good time to examine the best individual performances through 72 games of action for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

     

    All stats appear courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise stated, and are accurate through games played on March 25.

Oct. 12: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 4

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    Impressive Player: Sidney Crosby

    Stat Line: 3 G, 1 A, 22:09 TOI

    Why It Was Impressive:

    It's a rare night that sees Sidney Crosby fail to do at least one mind-boggling thing with the puck. He's the best offensive player in the world in the eyes of many, but one of his few peers is Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    The two went head-to-head in this early-season matchup, and Crosby put on a show. He notched his only hat trick of the season and powered the Penguins to a tight 5-4 win.

    After scoring a tying goal in second period to make the contest 1-1, the Penguins would find themselves down 3-2 heading into the third period. Crosby notched two unanswered tallies in the closing frame to give Pittsburgh its first lead of the night before assisting on Matt Niskanen's power-play game winner.

    Anyone can rack up the goals in lopsided games, but Crosby's four-point game came when Pittsburgh simply couldn't seem to pull ahead all night, and he eventually lead them to victory through his efforts.

March 22: Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3 (OT)

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Impressive Player: Evgeni Malkin

    Stat Line: 2 G, 2 A, 19:43 TOI

    Why It Was Impressive: 

    Something about the Lightning just brings out the best in Pittsburgh's top players. In their most recent meeting, Evgeni Malkin had a breakthrough performance and helped the Penguins to another close win over their Eastern Conference peers.

    With Pittsburgh trailing midway through the third period, "Geno" found the back of the net twice in a six-minute span to give his team the lead. Tampa would tie it up late, but that only opened the door for Malkin to find James Neal for the game-winning OT shot minutes later.

    Malkin had struggled to find his usual form following Russia's disappointing exit from the 2014 Winter Olympics, but he seems to have finally put Sochi in the rear view. He was an absolute force in this contest.

Oct. 8: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Carolina Hurricanes 2

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    Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images

    Impressive Player: Jussi Jokinen

    Stat Line: 3 G, 0 A, GWG, 16:24 TOI

    Why It Was Impressive:

    Hat tricks are special and rare as it is. When Jussi Jokinen scored three times Oct. 8, it was even more extraordinary because it was against his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The veteran spent three full seasons and parts of two others as a top-six forward in Carolina, so lighting the lamp three times with the Hurricanes visiting Pittsburgh probably felt good. Eric Staal—captain of the Hurricanes—had this to say following the game, as Wes Crosby of Pittsburgh's official website reported:

    I'm sure there is [extra motivation for him]. There should be for anybody who ends up in a different spot, and I'm sure that motivation's there to do well and he definitely did that tonight. He's an opportunistic player who's in the right spots. He can score and he can produce and he showed that tonight with some good moves.

    This wasn't a simple outburst against former teammates though. Jokinen has been one of Pittsburgh's most consistent forwards all season long.

March 11: Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Washington Capitals 0

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Impressive Player: Marc-Andre Fleury

    Stat Line: 32 saves, 26-26 EV, 6-6 PP

    Why It Was Impressive:

    The Penguins don't need Marc-Andre Fleury to step in and steal hockey games very often. Usually Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of Pittsburgh's forwards pitch in enough to give "Flower" a bit of wiggle room. He was outstanding against the Washington Capitals on March 11 though, making a whopping 32 saves against an offensively potent team.

    In downing the Capitals with this shutout, Fleury helped Pittsburgh sweep the season series against Alex Ovechkin and Co.

    Washington's captain acknowledged the goaltending performance in his postgame comments. As per Wes Crosby of Pittsburgh's official website: "Fleury played great tonight. Unfortunately, we couldn't score. We had opportunities to score, but he was unstoppable today."

Dec. 29: Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 3

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    Impressive Player: James Neal

    Stat Line: 3 G, 2 A, 4 PIM, 17:44 TOI

    Why It Was Impressive:

    James Neal made his fantasy owners happy Dec. 29, when he filled just about every column on the stat sheet. Not only was be able to score a hat trick, he also set up Pittsburgh's other two goals en route to downing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    It was Neal's career high in points in a single game and signaled that he was finally rolling after a rough start to the season. He'd missed 15 games with injury and five due to suspension, so this was a bit of an unforeseen outburst for the sniper.

    Neal was especially deadly on the power play in this particular contest, notching two goals with the man advantage.

     

    Franklin Steele is usually rambling about something hockey related on Twitter. Fell free to touch base with him here, where he promises never to speak in the third person while pretending to be someone else.