Pittsburgh Penguins 6-1 Montreal Canadiens: Crosby Bags the Hat Trick
In the NHL, a defining point of any team is how well they rebound from a poor performance.
The Penguins had a dreadful performance on home ice on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. They never got to their game and simply never challenged Martin Brodeur enough. But that was then, and is in the past.
But getting a response against the Canadiens was absolutely necessary.
They would be without Tyler Kennedy however, as he was a scratch due to an undisclosed injury. Kennedy was second on the team with five goals coming in. But either way, holes need to be plugged and the system has to march on.
Sidney Crosby got the scoring off first, thanks to a turnover forced by Chris Kunitz at the point. Kunitz managed to control the flying puck, get it to Bill Guerin, and find a wide-open Crosby just to the left of Jaroslav Halak.
But the first period was a bit sluggish on the part of both teams. The Canadiens got to the forecheck from time to time, but costly turnovers prevented them from scoring or really producing any solid chances.
Whatever Dan Byslma told the players at the intermission, it worked. The Penguins came out flying in the second period and never looked back. Their tenacity overwhelmed the Canadiens and taught them no mistake would go unpunished.
Crosby bagged his second, as the Penguins buzzed around the net. Kunitz couldn't capitalize in front of Halak, but the rebound came out to Crosby. With his back to the cage, Crosby backhanded over the sprawling Canadien netminder and made it look simple.
Then, on a delayed penalty to Montreal, a handful of Penguin grit players produced the second goal thanks to Mike Rupp on the doorstep.
A few minutes later, Crosby made it rain. He beat Roman Hamrlik once again, and slid the puck through the five-hole of Halak. Once again, the Penguins scored right around the net and Halak had little assistance from his defense.
Carey Price came in for the Canadiens to start the third period, but it made no difference. The Penguins continued to press and got to the powerplay, despite leading 4-0. Bylsma marched out a top PP unit that featured enforcer Eric Godard as the power forward and Mark Eaton at the point. And the unit looked surprisingly effective, as Godard nearly scored twice.
But Alex Goligoski came back on and quickly extended his point streak to six games, blasting a shot past Price. He had all day to shoot, and took his time to measure up the shot. Far too little respect by Montreal.
Kunitz sprinkled the jimmies and chocolate chips on the victory as he broke in alone on the powerplay, courtesy of a nifty pass from Chris Bourque. And as he fired the puck under Price, he booted his scoring slump out the door as well.
Players missing? No problem. Coming off a poor performance? Who cares. What happened? 6-1, Penguins.
Fleury: 7. Never faced a ton of shots, and his only fault was allowing a five-on-three goal to Tomas Plekanec. Was only seriously challenged a few times, and was up to the task on all of them.
Eaton: 7. Contributed when he could. Picked up an assist after smashing a puck on net on a six-on-five chance Halak wasn't able to handle.
Goligoski: 7.5. The man with the 'stache scored his third goal in four games, and is riding a six-game point streak to the top of the list of scoring defensemen.
Letang: 6. Had a great backdoor opportunity, but couldn't cash in. Showed smooth skating and passing all night. Although he saw a good amount of time on the powerplay, hasn't seen a ton of chances with Goligoski at the point.
McKee: 6. Never had much work to do, as the Penguins' defense was rarely tested after the first period.
Orpik: 8. A terrific night. Lead the team in hits, blocked shots, and kept the Canadiens' powerplay quiet for the vast majority of the evening. Even picked up a point, assisting on Crosby's third.
Skoula: 6. Didn't see a ton of time, but did a great job getting the puck out of the zone as quickly as possible.
Adams: 6.5. Had a solid day of killing penalties.
Bourque: 6.5. Got the start on the side of Evgeni Malkin, and looked more and more comfortable on the forecheck. Picked up his first point in a Penguin uniform by springing Kunitz loose on a breakaway.
Cooke: 6. Wasn't as effective without his partner in crime, but still managed to enjoy himself.
Crosby: 10. Registered his third career hat trick and missed the four-bagger by a quarter of a centimeter. It didn't matter which defender Montreal put on him, he turned them inside-out. Won 16 faceoffs for good measure.
Dupuis: 5. Played a slower game and didn't do a whole lot when he was on the ice. But that could easily be contributed to his recent illness that forced him to miss the last few practices.
Fedotenko: 5.5. A somewhat quiet game, but continued to see time at the point on Bylsma's second powerplay unit.
Godard: 6. Georges Laraque was not in the lineup, so had nobody worthwhile of fighting. But was oddly effective in front of the net on the powerplay, screening Price and nearly scoring.
Guerin: 8.5. Didn't score, but showed his passing touch as he picked up three assists on the night. Also went plus-three.
Kunitz: 9.5. He has never had a four-point night in his career until now. Assisted on all three of Crosby's goals, then scored his first of the season in the third period.
Malkin: 7. After Crosby's hat trick, he looked like he wanted to replicate the feat for himself. Shot the puck with a purpose, but just didn't have the magic touch. Still managed a point for his 10th assist of the year.
Rupp: 6.5. What do Mike Rupp, Jordan Staal, and Bill Guerin have in common? They all have three goals for the year. He was brought in to bring a physical presence on the fourth line, and while he's brought all that, he also has brought a scoring touch.
Staal: 6. Was solid on the forecheck but abysmal in the faceoff circle.
In dominating fashion, the Penguins move to 10-2-0 on the new season. They now leave the confines of the Igloo for Columbus, where they face the Blue Jackets and Rick Nash on Friday.
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