To start the new season, a number of potential potholes faced the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- The Stanley Cup Hangover. Who, us? Not on our watch, Smithy.
- The Four-Game Road Trip. Not a chance. No arch-rivals or Canadian visit is tripping this team up.
- The Powder Blue Jerseys. Hmm...
When the Penguins announced 12 dates that they would be wearing the alternate powder blue jerseys, the decision was not only scrutinized but it was also an object of many jokes.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette poked fun at the jerseys, proclaiming "The Penguins announce 12 guaranteed losses".
Even Head Coach Dan Bylsma said while returning home after a long road trip can be a tricky scenario, wearing the powder blues would be a good thing because two negatives equal a positive.
If the Penguins and Marc-Andre Fleury wanted to keep the winning streak going, they would have to dispose of the Lightning.
The Penguins got out early, capitalizing on the first powerplay chance of the night. Evgeni Malkin's slapshot bounced right out to Bill Guerin, who only had to deposit the puck into a wide open cage. They needed to come out strong, and started the game by outshooting the Lightning 7-1.
Sergei Gonchar also had a dead accurate shot. He scored twice, or so it appeared. After further review, his second goal was deemed to have been redirected by the blade of Pascal Dupuis.
The Penguins also had an extended 5-on-3 towards the end of the second period, but the Lightning did a terrific job to kill off their disadvantage and keep themselves within striking distance.
That didn't last long.
After two consecutive kills to begin the third period, the Lightning finally started to get something going on offense. But the Penguins were quick to extinguish that. Dan Bylsma sent out his fourth line - sort of. The usuals, Rupp and Godard, were centered by none other than Sidney Crosby.
Crosby set up shop behind the Lightning net, then found Rupp in front of the cage. The veteran enforcer quickly surveyed his options and flicked it past Niittymaki for his second goal in as many games.
And just like that, the Penguins sent the sellout crowd home happy.
Fleury: 7. Seven wins, a score of seven. Never really faced any serious tests and the only goal he allowed was a fluke bounce matched with a fine finish from Stamkos. Made sure to give a lot of credit to the excellent defense in front of him.
Eaton: 6. Took one for the team on the penalty kill that left everyone in the building holding their breath. But he was just fine and finished off the game.
Goligoski: 6.5. Had some positives and some negatives. While his puck handling in the first 30 minutes was anything but stellar, he was a different player in the second half. His passing was superb, including a dazzling backhander at the blue line.
Gonchar: 8.5. Showed why he might just be the best powerplay quarterback in the entire league. Scored on a wristshot and appeared to score on a slapshot too, but still had a two point night. Was also +3 on the evening.
Letang: 6.5. Tremendous skating as usual, but may have been most impressive when he demolished James Wright in the corner at the end of the third.
McKee: 8. Blocked six shots in the final 8 minutes of the game. The Penguins were up 4-1 at the time. That's about all you need to know.
Orpik: 7.5. His hitting prowess was on full display, starting almost immediately as he rocked Steve Downie's world. Picked up a rare point in the first period.
Adams: 5.5. Played a mostly quiet night of hockey, but did contribute a shade over 7 minutes of quality penalty killing time.
Cooke: 5.5. Another guy that never really got a chance to shine, with so many powerplay chances on both sides.
Crosby: 7.5. Before the game, he made it clear that it wasn't a big deal that he only had one assist on the season coming into the game. He added two more to that total, including a beautiful backhand pass to Rupp for the goal. Had a few moments on the powerplay when he might have been thinking too much about the pass and not taking a shot.
Dupuis: 6. Was credited with a goal in the second period, his first of the year. Also made his speed felt on a couple occasions, as the Lightning defensemen couldn't seem to catch up with him.
Fedotenko: 5. Had a pair of fine chances on the powerplay and couldn't make much of either one.
Godard: 5.5. What's there to do when there is nobody to fight? Hit guys and create space. He only played six shifts but managed to get a hit or draw a man to him on every one.
Guerin: 7. Scored one of the most challenging goals of his career in Ottawa a few nights ago. But tonight, he pocketed one of the easiest he will ever get. Potentially could have had two, but we won't get greedy.
Kennedy: 6. Made sure to shoot the puck almost every time he touched it. Oddly enough, only saw 10 minutes of ice time and no time on the man advantage.
Kunitz: 5. Nothing great, nothing bad.
Malkin: 7. Had a productive night shooting the puck. His first blast of the night created Guerin's goal. Had a bit of a controversial play as he bumped into Niittymaki on Dupuis/Gonchar's goal, but the referee deemed that it wasn't enough to take away the tally.
Rupp: 6.5. Scored his second goal in two games, this time getting an helper from Captain Crosby. It's a question that you never thought you'd have to answer. But can Crosby and Malkin turn the veteran into a 30-goal man?
Staal: 6. Contributed solid penalty killing time as usual and very nearly had a breakaway chance off Vinny Lecavalier's blunder at the point.
Well, the Big Black and Gold machine just keeps on rolling. And it doesn't matter if they're wearing powder blue. Next up for the Mighty 'Guins will be the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, regretfully a Versus broadcast.
The Penguins haven't seen much of the Blues in recent memory, but they face a pair of former teammates in Darryl Sydor and Ty Conklin.
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