Penguins Answer the Bell – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Answer the Bell

“Where the hell have you been Jimmy Braddock?”

Actor Paul Giamatti, playing the part of fight manager Joe Gould in the movie Cinderella Man, exclaimed those very words after watching his down-but-not-out fighter dismantle No. 2 heavyweight contender Corn Griffin.

I would imagine coach Mike Sullivan uttered a similar phrase on the Penguins’ bench last night after seeing Nick Bonino notch his third goal of the game and second career hat trick.

While “Bones” may have been the star of the game, he wasn’t the lead story.


That honor fell to Evgeni Malkin. In as gutsy and clutch a performance as I can recall since the days of Kevin Stevens, “Geno” scored two huge goals and added an assist to pace the Pens to a scintillating 7-4 triumph over a Winnipeg team that had everything to play for and everything to gain.

How gutsy and clutch? Let me count the ways.

Meeting the enemy head-on, the big Russian stepped to the fore by dropping the gloves with Blake Wheeler early in the contest. For those with short memories, Malkin had laid out the Jets’ captain with a borderline hit the last time the teams met.

Geno didn’t win the battle—he seemed to purposely refrain from throwing punches—but his courageous, team-first move diffused a potentially explosive situation and delivered a not-so-subtle message to Wheeler and his mates.

You won’t have to go looking for me. I’m right here.

Talk about a leader. Front and center.

In case the Jets still had their dander up, Sullivan wisely deployed burly left wing Tom Sestito on the very next shift. The Pens’ heavyweight had a few choice words for Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, who’d injured star defenseman Justin Schultz the last time out.

My guess is, he wasn’t discussing the weather.

Hey Big Buff, want a knuckle sandwich? Lay off my guys.

Big Tom found a taker in Jets tough guy and former Pen Chris Thorburn. The heavies tangled for nearly a minute, swapping rights, lefts and the occasional uppercut in spirited fashion.

Old scores appropriately settled, the adversaries got down to business. With Pens goalie Matt Murray fighting the puck for a second-straight outing, the Jets snatched a 2-1 lead, to the delight of the prairie denizens at MTS Centre.

Malkin made another statement. This time with his stick. The big center took a long lead pass from Phil Kessel and wired the puck past Jets goalie Connor Hellebucyk to knot the score at 2-2. Byfuglien countered for Winnipeg, thanks in part to a major penalty issued to Sestito for blasting poor Toby Enstrom into the boards.

The Jets held the lead until the midpoint of the game, when the Penguins took charge with a frightful burst of offensive fury. Working on a 5-on-3 power play, Schultz blew the puck past Hellebucyk at 9:09 of the second period.

Bonino, seemingly reborn following a motivational talk with Sullivan, struck 20 seconds later. The bearded center relieved defenseman Ben Chariot of the puck and beat a beleaguered Hellebucyk with a sizzler to the stick side.

Then Geno delivered the knockout punch…and eventual game winner. Outmuscling Mark Scheifele in the slot, No. 71 spun to his forehand and scored from close range.

Three goals in 57 seconds. Exit Hellebucyk. And any hope of a Jets victory.

Bonino wove a little HBK magic—and sent a few hats a flyin’—with a short-side marker off a crisp diagonal feed from Chad Ruhwedel late in the second period. His 12th goal of the season and second power-play tally of the night.

Jake Guentzel closed out the scoring for the black-and-gold at 16:02 of the third before Marko Dano replied late for the Jets.

It all started with Malkin.

“He’s a brave guy, he’s a competitive guy and I thought he played hard tonight,” Sullivan said.

Ice Chips

Geno registered a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a goal, assist and fight). The big center has 31 goals and 70 points—tied for the team lead with Sidney Crosby.

Schultz’s goal was his 12th of the season, a new career-high. He scored 11 for Edmonton in 2013-14.

Ruhwedel enjoyed a three-assist night. He finished the game a plus-2, as did Malkin. Conor Sheary and Mark Streit collected two assists each. Murray recovered from his shaky start to make 31 saves.

Patric Hornqvist returned to Pittsburgh after being diagnosed with a concussion. No timetable has been set for his return.

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  1. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    March 9, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    A quick update. The NHL suspended Tom Sestito four games for his hit on Enstrom.


    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      March 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Does not 4 games seem a little excessive Rick?

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        March 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        While the Pens fan in me wants to say ‘yes’, I have to admit it was a pretty brutal hit.

        If we turn the circumstances around and it was…say…Adam Lowry driving Conor Sheary into the boards the same way, I’d be screaming for Lowry’s head.

        The “Pittsburgh Tribune-Review” mentioned that it was Sestito’s second NHL suspension for boarding. So that may factor into it.

        Plus, let’s face it, big Tom’s got a reputation.


        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          March 9, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          As I wrote below Rick, Sestito doesn’t hit Enstrom if the officials had done their job from the start and policed the Schultz and Maatta hits. They are at fault here.

          So, yes if Lowry hit Sheary I would be screaming just as I am upset over the Maatta and Schultz injuries.

        • Jim's Gravatar Jim
          March 9, 2017 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the explanation Rick. I did not realize this was his second offense.

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      March 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Sorry Rick,

      But I find that extremely hypocritical. If the refs and league had done their job and slapped the Jets with penalties and suspension for their criminal intent on Schultz and Maatta, Sestito doesn’t hit Enstrom. The guilty parties here are the the ones incharge.

    • Mike's Gravatar Mike
      March 10, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Rick if you know this guy that wrote the story about Sestito in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Paul Zeise) – Could you tell him for me he’s a freakin moron.

      Guy’s like him no nothing at all about Hockey. This is always going to be
      apart of the game and without him the Pens get run out of Winnipeg.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        March 10, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know him, Mike. Don’t agree with him, either.

        Again, I’m not advocating a return to the lawless days of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, when the NHL resembled an on-ice version of the American wild west.

        But the reality is, as you so aptly pointed out, for games like the recent one in Winnipeg, you simply must have a physical presence on hand to protect your guys.

        Purists can argue all they want that meting out justice should be left in the hands of the referees. But they’re only human. They miss stuff, and have biases, too.

        I go back to the Pens-Caps series last spring. Game 2, I believe. Tom Wilson lined up Conor Sheary from about 10 yards away and blatantly took out his leg. With such malice and force that it sent Sheary spinning into a cartwheel, wiping out Brian Dumoulin in the process.

        It’s a miracle neither one of them was hurt.

        Bottom line? The threat of drawing a penalty didn’t deter Wilson one bit. And he wasn’t even penalized–let alone suspended–for one of the filthiest acts I’ve ever witnessed in an NHL game.

        I maintain that Sestito’s presence, distasteful as it may be to some, would have kept Wilson in check. Heck, it happened in the season opener. Sestito fought Wilson, and the Caps’ bad boy was gentle as a lamb the rest of the night.

        Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Plain and simple.


        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          March 10, 2017 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          I’m going to expound on this a little further, then I’ll shut up.

          As much as I’m a traditionalist who feels a team needs to have a bit of a physical (and fighting) presence, I do see…in an odd, almost backward sort of way…where not having a guy to fight the team’s battles may have helped us.

          Players have had to toughen up, mentality and physically, while learning how to handle the rough stuff and extracurriculars on their own or collectively as a team. I think that added toughness helped us win the Cup.

          As Keith Jones said last spring, “The Penguins can take a punch.”
          Think back even a couple of years, and it wasn’t always so.

          I suppose it’s like raising a child. If you overprotect them, do you risk harming them or stunting their growth in the long run by denying them the opportunity to learn how to deal with life situations?

          Having said that, nobody wants their kid to be put in a dangerous situation. One where they could get seriously hurt.

          I liken that scenario to the Winnipeg game. The Jets were out for blood, no ifs, ands or buts. It would’ve been dangerous, if not downright negligent, had the Pens not dressed Tom Sestito.


        • Mike's Gravatar Mike
          March 12, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink


          Well said – Cant they see how the players respond to having
          Sestito in the Line-up ? That says it all.

  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    March 9, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Just thinking about your discussion on Malkin, did you notice that he has climbed to the top of the league in P/G. I am not sure if he and Crosby, who is second, are quite ready to relinquish their crowns as the best offensive talents in the league.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t, Other Rick. Great observation.

      Malkin’s really been coming on of late. Sixteen points (9+7) I believe, in his last 11 games. He’s reminded me of the MVP Geno of 2011-12.

      Like Crosby, there seems to be an added layer of mental toughness and maturity to his makeup that perhaps wasn’t there before.

      At least partly attributable, I’d say, to coach Mike Sullivan.


      • Mike's Gravatar Mike
        March 9, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink


        People can say what they want about fighting in Hockey. But it
        changed the dynamics of last nights game in the Pens favor and
        I don’t think I’ve seen the Penguin bench so enthusiastic as they
        were after the Sestito fight. It was great to watch.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          March 9, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          Hey Mike,

          I’m going to sound like I’m talking (writing) out of two sides of my mouth.

          I genuinely don’t like to see anyone get hurt. Or God forbid, develop dementia down the road. I’ve read a few articles about former enforcers and heavyweights from the ’80s and ’90s, and a lot of them are struggling with issues. Very sad.

          Having stated that, at the risk of revealing my Neanderthal side, I don’t mind seeing a good fight now and then. Especially when guys are evenly matched, as Sestito and Thorburn were last night.

          I do think there’s value in having a guy or two who are willing and able to mix it up. (If you haven’t noticed by now, it’s my main bone of contention with our present Pens.) Sometimes just having a presence in the lineup is enough to keep the other team in check.

          Washington’s Tom Wilson is a prime example. When we don’t dress Sestito against the Caps, Wilson’s a holy terror. When Sestito plays…he’s fairly tame.

          As an aside, I heard (second hand) that former Pen and current radio color man Phil Bourque said the players, to a man, love Sestito.

          No surprise to me.


  3. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    March 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    Three observations from last night.
    1. It is not the size of the dog that counts, but the fight inside him..The Pen’s showed up to compete, and after falling behind they stepped up. As your post says,Malkin lead the way and the rest followed. We definitely benefit when Bones scores like he did last night. 3 is nice to have, but I will settle for 1 goal every other game.( We need 3 lines scoring to win.)
    2. Sheary. He played certainly at a higher level than his paycheck states. It seems he is always attacking the puck and taking it to the net. I used to think it was because he plays with Sid, but when you watch him, especially in an environment like last night, he makes things happen. With Hornqvist out with yet another player with a possible concussion, Sheary’s role will only increase.( That boy is going to get a BIG raise in his next contract.)
    3. The teams seemed to let up a bit on the physical play as the game went on.The Jets out hit the Pen’s 16 to 8,according to NHL .com. Yes the Jets are much bigger as a team but I have seen games like Columbus where the hit count was much higher, and the Pen’s were roughed up a lot more.
    The fight in the dog.

    Good news is we will not see them again until we meet in the Cup Final.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 9, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Excellent insights and comments. Particularly about Sheary.

      I love the kid. Talk about the fight in the dog! He’s remarkably effective along the boards and in traffic. I marvel at how many times he wins puck battles against (much) bigger foes.

      He’s clever and creative, too, with a knack for finding the seams. And he reads and reacts so well to Crosby … not an easy thing to do at all given Sid’s elevated hockey sense and instincts.

      Just a terrific young player.


      PS–I see a lot of the same qualities in Guentzel. Maybe not quite as creative, but really scrappy and competitive for a guy his size. While not on the same level as those two, Scott Wilson’s quietly emerging, too.

  4. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    March 9, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I got really ticked off at the Pens D after their first goal against when once again the empty sweaters masquerading as NHL defensemen allowed another 2 on 0 in front of the Pens net so I will not comment on Murray’s performance, since I didn’t see the other 3 goals against. However, judging by the 35 SOG and 62 total shots, I would suspect that Murray had a lot of help in digging the 3 goal first period hole the team found itself in.

    I am glad to see Bones get back on the scoreboard and his +1 at the end of the tilt. I am very hopeful but not holding my breath as I await the day when the team gets their shots against totals back into the mid 20s and total shot attempts against into around 40.

    I also loved to see Malkin’s Howe Hat Trick. Geno does remind one a little of Artie as you noted. He really responds well when opponents try to get physical with him. You would think that opponents would scout him better and realize that the best way to eliminate Geno is to try and lull him to sleep by not really getting in his way rather than grabbing that Siberian Tiger by the Tail.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but Ruhwedel is working his way on to a more permanent status on the team, if I were coach, while some others may be working there way off of the team completely. I am sick to tears at seeing 2 opponents in front of the Penguins goalies with no Pens jerseys in sight.

    Kudos for big Tom. I hope that Sullie gives him a chance to actually play hockey rather than just be the Pens big dog. Maybe some regular shifts are in order. But that Thorton match was very interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I hate when the league allows games to digress to that kind of circus (if Wheeler gets an instigator and maybe a suspension for going into the game, premediated, looking for a fight, maybe a message is sent right out of the gate to prevent idiotic goonery. But then again the league only wants to give lip service to clean hockey). It looked like to me that both players really exhausted themselves and were looking for and grateful when the linesman broke up the fight.

    I missed Tom’s 2nd incident. My BP was through the roof watching the number of Jets that kept getting in behind the Pens D in the first 5 minutes of the game. I turned the TV off and just kept track of the score on the NHL web site. If I don’t see the AHL level or less of defensive play, I figured I could keep a little equalibrium to my BP.

    I still am a doubter this year. The team still hasn’t found a way to cut down on shots. I won’t convert until then.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 9, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      I certainly understand your frustration.

      I do think we need to be mindful that–with all the injuries and new faces–Mike Sullivan is still sorting out his defensive pairings. And I’m not sure how much help our ‘d’ gets from our forwards. We still play it pretty fast and loose at times.

      But I agree. Allowing such a high volume of shots, game in and game out, is hardly a recipe for postseason success. Or a Stanley Cup repeat.

      Given that a lot of guys (Daley, Maatta and Rust) aren’t due back til the end of the season (not to mention Letang’s questionable status), I hope there’s time to re-assimilate everyone and iron out the kinks before the playoffs.


      PS–I’ve been saying for a while that I like Ruhwedel as a sixth or seventh defenseman. He skates well, makes nice passes, and generally defends well. A bit undersized at 5’11” 191 for the dirty work in the trenches. But again, we’re talking about a depth guy. All-in-all, a really nice pickup by Rutherford.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        March 9, 2017 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes his size does worry me RIck but he does seem to play better than some players larger than him. I can dream that somehow or another that the Pens pick up Zadorov from Col or Tryamkin from Van during the summer and pair them with Ruhwedel.

        Honestly at Daley’s age I do worry about his return. He isn’t anywhere near our age but even at his age the healing process is slower and not quite as complete as it could be.

        As for Maatta, I also worry that it will take him just as long to truly recover as it did his last injury. I worry that hr won’t really be effective until around January of next year.

        I don’t dislike Hainsey or Streit but this D looks like a patchwork quilt rather than a cohesive unit and an old worn out patchwork quilt at that. They aren’t particularly big and are getting leaned on heavily. They do not look quite as fast as they did last year (maybe from playing too many games in a single year) making them easier targets for larger, heavier teams to hit exacerbating the problem even more. I wince each time one of them gets hit expecting another injury.

        I do believe that part of the problem really is the forwards. Bonino is finally starting to look like the Bonino from last Spring but has been rather absent most of the season. Maybe he is a Spring time player, which could be good. If the third line can start to dominate play like it did last year, than opponents would certainly get less zone time.

        I make no apologies for what I am about to say, but I would not have been this patient with Bonino. I would have brought up Sundqvist and inserted him into the lineup. Sundqvist played very smart last year and seem to screen players off of the puck pretty well last year. Maybe he would have taken Bonino’s spot or maybe he would have just caused Bonino to pick up his game sooner.

        Hagelin also has not looked like he did when he came over last year. Maybe that really has been because Bonino has struggled. But he needs to get back into form to drive that line.

        Kuhnhackl was a staple in Sullies lineup last year and has been used very sparingly this year. He was another player last year who protected his own zone really well last year but is only now getting some playing time.

        In the end if I am Sullivan I tell the whole team that if I see another 2 on 0, all players on the ice, and I don’t care who they were; Malkin and Crosby included, all 5 players could expect to sit the next game or if I didn’t have enough players to really do that, then they would get very little ice time the next game and then I would follow thru with my promise if I did see another 2 on 0.

        This is too late in the season to be giving up these types of defensive breakdowns now in 3 straight games.


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