Powered by five goals from five different players, the Penguins overcame an early surge by Calgary to dump the Flames, 5-3, Saturday night.
Playing before a packed house at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames started like a house afire while the Pens appeared sluggish and disorganized. Fortunately, Marc-Andre Fleury was once again in top form. After blunting a Flames salvo in the opening minute of play, “the Flower” made a huge stop on Jay Bouwmeester five minutes in.
Thanks to No. 29, it appeared the Pens would escape a lackluster first period on even terms with the Flames. But with 4:28 to play, onrushing Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano eluded Craig Adams and made a pretty cross-ice pass to Curtis Glencross, who snapped the puck past Fleury from inside the right circle.
Down 1-0 on the road, the Penguins responded with some fire of their own. Using a goals-by-committee approach, they overwhelmed the Flames with a sizzling second period. At 1:04 Tyler Kennedy popped out of the penalty box and beat Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff through the five-hole to knot the score. Minutes later Jordan Staal fed determined Matt Niskanen, who took three cracks at the rubber before beating Kiprusoff for a power-play tally. Next it was the grinders’ turn, as Adams banged the puck in off defender Anton Babchuk following a face-off deep in the Flames’ zone. Evgeni Malkin capped off the onslaught with a slick power-play goal from the side of the net at 13:01.
“I thought it was our best period so far,” Pens coach Dan Bylsma noted.
Clearly frustrated, the Flames resorted to thuggery. On the next rush Cory Sarich hammered Matt Cooke with a brutal hit to the head, stunning the gritty Pens’ winger. Deryk Engelland pounced on Sarich to ignite a five-on-five melee near the Flames’ net. Following the ensuing face-off Glencross pitch-forked Malkin to the ice. Seeking to make a statement of his own, “Geno” caught up with the Flames’ forward moments later and tagged him with a couple of long rights.
Having shrugged off Calgary’s terror tactics, the black and gold dominated play until nine-minute mark of the third period, when Alex Tanguay set up Rene Bourque with a nifty shot-pass at the side of the Penguins’ net. Fleury provided some drama with four minutes left when he misplayed the puck behind his cage, leading to a goal by Olli Jokinen. But Staal slipped his first goal of the season into an empty net to clinch a victory for the Pens.
“We did a lot of good things,” Niskanen said afterward. “It’s nice to see the power play going like it is.”
The Penguins scored on two of five power plays for a 40 percent conversion rate … The rejuvenated power play is clicking at a 50 percent (four-of-eight) after two games … Niskanen and Staal paced the Pens’ attack with two points each … Kris Letang (1 assist) earned the No. 1 star … The Pens and the Flyers lead the Atlantic Division at 2-0 … Steve MacIntyre, Brooks Orpik, and Richard Park were healthy scratches.
The Penguins close out their western swing Sunday night when they square off with Ryan Whitney and the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. The Pens all-time record against the Oilers is 26-35-4.
*Be sure to check out Rick’s new book, “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” at TriumphBooks.com. It features 296 pages of bios, stories, anecdotes and photos from the team’s colorful past in a compelling, easy-to-read style. Whether you’re a die-hard booster from the days of Jean Pronovost or a big fan of Sid and Geno, this book is a must have for any true Penguins fan.
Don’t forget to check out Rick’s first book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and storied history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more.