The Pittsburgh Penguins were completely shut down by Carolina's backup goaltender, Michael Leighton through the first 48 minutes of this game. However, the Pens needed just two shifts in the third period to erase a one goal deficit and eventually take a two goal lead before Evgeni Malkin put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal.
The Penguins won their third game in a row, and fifth of the season, improving to 5-2-1.
I was a little surprised by the Canes' decision to go with Leighton in goal tonight, despite Cam Ward's 7-3-1 career record against Pittsburgh, but my doubts about the young net minder were soon erased within the first 20 minutes.
Leighton turned away 23 shots through the first two periods, keeping the Penguins off the score board throughout the first 48 minutes of play.
19-year old Canes' forward, Brandon Sutter took advantage of a Brooks Orpik errant pass in his own zone and cashed in on what would be the Canes' only goal of the night.
Sutter is the son of Devils' head coach Brent Sutter and the ninth member of the Sutter family to play in the NHL.
Despite giving up the goal to Sutter, Marc-Andre Fleury put in another solid performance tonight. Fleury stopped 24 of 25 shots, including an acrobatic save on a Sergei Samsonov wrap-around attempt in the second period.
If you want to score your first career NHL goal, play a game against the Penguins. I probably couldn't count on both of my hands the number of players who have recorded their first goals against the Pens in the last two seasons.
Two former Penguins dropped the gloves for the Canes tonight. Dan Lacojoke took on Paul Bissonnette in the first period and Wade Brookbank attempted to energize his team by fighting Eric Godard in the second. Bissonnette won his contest fairly decisively, but neither Godard nor Brookbank was able to gain the upper hand in the latter of the two bouts.
By the time the third period rolled around, the Penguins had gained all the momentum. You could tell that it was just a matter of time before someone got a puck past Leighton.
The opportunity arose at 7:52 of the third when Wallin was penalized for hooking. The Penguins' power play hit the ice with something to prove.
Malkin cocked the gun from the right point and unleashed a blistering slap shot toward the net. Crosby was just able to get a piece of the puck in the slot, changing the direction of the shot, and causing Bleacher Creature Mark Jones to fall out of his red and white recliner. Crosby's redirection was enough to allow the puck to sneak past Leighton for his second goal of the season. 1-1.
32 seconds later the Penguins took the lead. With the second line on the ice, Petr Sykora sent a crisp pass to Jordan Staal who glided into the attacking zone. Staal finally did something right by sending a pass cross-ice to Ruslan Fedotenko who buried his first goal in a Penguins' uniform. 2-1 Pens.
Just over three minutes later, the Pens struck again. Maxime Talbot stick-handled past a Canes' defenseman at the blue line and broke in on Leighton. Talbot made a quick move to the backhand and slipped the puck between the pillows of Leighton to make it 3-1 Pens.
Time wound down and the Canes eventually pulled Leighton. Fleury attempted to score a goal on the empty net, as he has a handful of times in his career, but his shot just sailed wide.
Crosby eventually found Malkin on the right wing and Gino broke into the zone and wristed the puck into the gaping cage, sealing the deal for the Penguins.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has just left the building.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 4 Carolina 1
- Jordan Staal finally played a solid 60 minutes of hockey. The assist aside, Staal turned in a great two-way effort tonight. Perhaps we can hold off on that trade for a bag of peanuts... for now.
- Leighton looked good through the first two periods. Although, after he gave up the first goal, he seemed to fall apart.
- The Pens were notoriously good in the third period of games last season, something we haven't seen until tonight thus far this year.
- It was good to see Fedotenko net his first goal of the season. He works hard on every shift and played a very physical game alongside Staal tonight.
- Rod Brind'Ajoke was invisible on the ice. Retire already.
- Despite the turnover that led to the goal, Orpik turned in another solid performance on the Penguins' blue line, as did Letang.
- Crosby and Malkin have now combined for 24 points in eight games.
- The Pens resume action on Saturday night in the Big Apple when they square off against the Eastern Conference leading Rangers.
Full article at Experiencing the Evolution.