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Penguins Slip Past Oilers in Shootout – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Slip Past Oilers in Shootout

From opposite sides of the ice, the two players glided toward the faceoff circle. Knees flexed, bent over at the waist, sticks resting across their legs. One clad in Pittsburgh gold, black and white. The other in blue, orange and white.

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Eighty-seven vs. ninety-seven. The Old Kid vs. the New Kid. Sidney Crosby vs. Connor McDavid.

The much anticipated second meeting (and first on Canadian ice) between the leagues’ leading goal-getter (Sid) and top point-producer (McDavid). A marquee matchup made in heaven.

Leave it to a goalie to steal the show.

The star attractions had their moments, for sure. Crosby laced the puck past Oilers netminder Cam Talbot in a blur of precision to open the shootout scoring. McDavid countered with an incredible forehand of his own, measuring Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as if he were sizing him up for a new suit before whipping a shot over “Flower’s” outstretched glove.

The Edmonton whiz struck in real time, too, burying a made-to-order rebound on the power play midway through the third period to knot the score at 2-2.

Can’t forget Evgeni Malkin. The big Russian scored a decidedly unclassic goal in classic off-the-rush style—his sixth tally in the past four games—to snatch the Pens’ point-scoring lead from Crosby and close to within four points of McDavid.

Nick Bonino, too. Ever the opportunist, Bones flipped a short feed from Scott Wilson over a prone Talbot to open the scoring. His fourth marker in two games.

And how about Phil Kessel? Snake bitten of late, “Phil the Thrill” rambled straight down the pike and blew the shootout winner past Talbot with such force that it toppled the Oilers’ goalie after it sailed by.

Talk about a tailwind!

For my money, Fleury was the difference. Appearing remarkably cool and calm, No. 29 made 40 saves. As always, many of the spectacular variety. None more than an absolutely unconscious pad save on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the right post in overtime—moments after he stoned McDavid on a breakaway—to snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat.

How he had the presence of mind to lift his right pad at the last millisecond while sprawled on his belly, I’ll never know. They should bronze the video clip and enshrine it in the Hockey Hall of Fame, post haste.

Fleury at his absolute best.

We’ve seen a lot of that lately. While de facto starter Matt Murray’s experienced some issues, most notably with his nettlesome glove hand, Fleury’s quietly put together a run of sparkling performances. Starting with a dynamic 44-save effort against Winnipeg on February 16, he’s stopped 137 of the last 145 shots he’s faced.

A .945 save percentage. Not too shabby.

Since December 1? Flower’s posted a .918 save percentage (well above his .912 career average) and 2.72 goals against average. All the while facing down an ungodly average of 33 shots on goal per game. And fending off an almost constant barrage of questions from reporters concerning his future. Queries that must be as distracting as they are unsettling.

“He’s handled it so well… so professionally,” marveled teammate Ian Cole. “Away from the ice, you couldn’t find a better guy. He’s done a fantastic job coming in with limited time and limited reps and played great for us.”

Like last night.

Ice Chips

The Oilers dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard. They outshot the Pens, 42-31, including 34-17 over the final 45 minutes. Edmonton held a pronounced edge in hits (30-17) and controlled the faceoff circle by a ridiculous margin (34-11).

Ex-Oiler Justin Schultz picked up an assist in his return to Edmonton. He finished the night a plus-1, with three shots on goal, four blocked shots and two hits.

Wilson has seven points (2+5) in his past 12 games.

Matt Cullen was a scratch. Alberta native Carter Rowney filled his spot. Oskar Sundqvist replaced Tom Sestito, recently suspended for four games. Playing in his first game of the season for the Pens, the big Swede delivered a team-high four hits in 8:06 of ice time.

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5 Comments

  1. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    March 11, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,

    That game was the classic definition of “a win is a win.” If it hadn’t been for Fleury standing tall, or doing the scorpion, it would have been worse than the butt ugly it was. It is somewhat of a testament to the grit they do have to win a game in which they spent 35 of last 40 minutes scrambling in their own end.

    I was happy to see Kessel net one. Here’s hoping it energizes him because I don’t know if he’s been snake bit, but he’s looked lost, and tired, for at least the last six games. He’s got to be last year’s Phil in the playoffs.

    Happy, also, to see Bonino ramping up. His line has been really good the past few games. Wilson has been stepping up, too.

    I like Sid with Sheary and Guentzel. They seem to be still working it out. Sid’s been a little snake bit recently himself, but if this line holds and finds their stride they will do some damage.

    Sorry to see Cullen go down. Hope it’s not serious.

    I doubt anyone is as happy as I am to see Malkin firing on all cylinders, and dropping the gloves, too. I feel like he is finally stepping out from Sid’s shadow. Maybe he’s also a bit miffed not being on the 100 best list. Either way, this is the Geno I took to from the minute he first laced ’em up at the Igloo. I’d love to see him win the scoring title. Maybe goals, too.

    This is a very good team, maybe better than last year, but the wear and tear has poked through somewhat. I hope this D holds up in the post season. They won’t repeat without a solid D, and goal tending, too. And everyone needs to be better on the back check. That means being more aggressive and dishing out some menace. I’m reasonably certain they don’t want the Caps, or Columbus, setting up a command post behind their net, or to be giving them over 40 shots per game, or 40 minutes in their zone. That’s a sure fire recipe for cleaning the golf clubs.

    55 (Larry Murphy Forever)

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55 on Point,

      Per your usual, just a really thoughtful and accurate account of the Pens’ present state. You hit every protruding nail squarely on the head.

      Just to toss my two cents in (and reinforce some of your thoughts). I too, think this team is actually better than last year’s Cup winners, although as you noted, they’re kind of banged up. With kids like Guentzel and Wilson emerging, to say nothing of Sheary (hasn’t he been amazing?), it’s got more scoring depth.

      I’m hoping when we get everyone healthy, our issues on ‘d’ will clear up.

      The one fly in my ointment? I don’t think we’re winning puck battles to the degree we were last year. Especially in our end. Which may be contributing to our poor showing in the faceoff circle and other issues (such as high opposing shot totals).

      While I fear Sid’s wearing down a tad (perhaps Kessel, too), Malkin’s absolutely in a groove. The likes of which I haven’t seen since 2011-12. At least not for as extended a stretch.

      You’re spot on…he does appear to be emerging from Crosby’s shadow. Usually when Sid’s going strong, Geno fades to the background. That hasn’t been the case at all this season. It’s like he’s stepped up to become a true co-leader. Much as he did during the ’09 Cup run and, to a lesser extent, last year.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When No. 71’s on his game, he reminds me more of Mario than anyone since…well…Mario.

      Rick

      • Mike's Gravatar Mike
        March 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Rick

        Could you tell “Hooks Opik” he’s a moron for me!! Is there no
        qualifications for writing articles on Chat Sports.

  2. The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
    March 11, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    The good news; the Pens won last night, they are in a three way tie for the 2nd best record in the league, Bonino looks like he may be heating up for the Spring, and MAF is finally starting to play well. That should give everyone reason to hope.

    However, let’s temper that excitement. The foundation is still very shaky. Here it comes…..I am going to harp on it again……. Once again the Pens gave up over 40 shots (42), the skaters had to block 15 more shots and Edm missed the net 21 more times; that’s 78 total shots. I don’t think that is going to cut it in the off season.

    The Pens also only 11 of 45 FO. I agree FO W% isn’t that important of a stat but it is a sign of a weak under-pinning. Losing that many draws, particularly against the top tier teams as you progress through the play-offs, in your defensive zone, seems to be a recipe for disaster.

    Finally, I loved MAFs performance. He justified many people, myself included, who have continued saying he is still a number 1 goalie. However, let’s remember MAF had some sparkling games in October but that quickly passed and he followed that up with some abysmal months of play before crawling back up to acceptable play. I am glad he is playing well and proving me right, but if Murray’s last couple of performances is the worst he has in him, then there is no reason what so ever to not have him still start the bulk of the rest of the season. Fleury played worse for longer.

    Dubnyk, odds on favorite to win the all the goalie hardware this year gave up 12 goals in a three game stretch between 12/29 and 1/5 on 87 shots (that is a 0.862 Sv%). The Pens touched up Dubnyk’s closest rival for the hardware Holtby for 5 goals on 26 shots. Maybe the Pens could get by with MAF in goal. They are in great position, but any suggestion or action by which MAF replaces Murray as the number 1 is suspect at best and may actually harm the team long term.

    I wish I could be in the same place I was in last year when I had absolute faith, unfortunately, this year, I am seeing too many holes that just don’t seem to be getting patched.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 11, 2017 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      We’ve certainly mastered the art of winning ugly, haven’t we?

      I’m concerned with our play in our own end. Once other teams get a cycle going, we have grave difficulty regaining possession of the puck. Even making a simple play to clear the zone seems to be a chore at times.

      Nor am I especially pleased with our overall play along the wall–save for the attacking zone. It almost seems as though we need to be moving forward to be effective. If we’re put back on our heels, or God forbid, have to stand and defend … (shudder)

      That’s the bad news. The good news is, we have so much depth and talent. I know I keep harping on it. But if we do get most everyone healthy…watch out.

      And, as you noted, we have two No. 1 goalies. Agree on two counts. I thought Murray played about as poorly as I’ve ever seen him play in the first period against Winnipeg. Yet he was able to right himself to the tune of 31 saves.

      Kind of echoes what Sullivan has said about him. It isn’t that Murray doesn’t leak for bad goals now and then. It how he responds after he does.

      Great to see Fleury back in form, too. I have an odd sense that he’s going to play a key role before all is said and done. Not to jinx us (or Murray) in any way, but perhaps a reversal of last spring.

      We’ll see.

      Rick


            

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