The “Big Three” met at PPG Paints Arena this afternoon to the dismay of Detroit fans. No, I am not talking about Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill, but I am talking about and American, Russian, and a Canadian (Part of the British Commonwealth at the time). Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby put the Penguins 3-peat dreams on their backs and carried them back from the brink. The entire team put forth the type of effort that was the hallmark of the Penguins we fans know and love.
Maybe my previous post about “The Return of the King’ was a bit Prophetic (at least we can hope).
The big Russian bear, Malkin, led the way. He opened up the scoring, en route to a 4 point game. Malkin started the play and then finished it. He took control of the puck in the Red Wings’ corner and dropped it back to Olli Maatta at the left point before circling back up into the high slot. Maatta threw the puck back into the corner. Carl Hagelin, flying like he did 2 years ago, won the race to the puck bouncing off of the boards and stuffed it toward the net and off of Wings’ Goalie Jimmie Howard’s stick. The puck caromed up the slot toward Malkin, who, on one knee, ripped a wrist shot high to the far post.
Justin Abdelkader pulled the Wings back even, converting their third straight power play in 9 minutes. However, today would not be a repeat of the futility of New Year’s Eve. On a power play of their own, the Penguins ended any thought of a Wings’ comeback less than 3 minutes later. Lugging the puck up ice, Phil Kessel passed the puck to Malkin, who quickly moved the puck over to Crosby, and the Captain sent a sweet pass cross ice to a streaking Kessel at the far post to net his 19th goal of the year (his 3rd winning goal).
The “Dynamic Duo” of Kessel and Malkin teamed up for the third Penguins goal. Kessel entered the Wings’ zone on the left side with Patric Hornqvist breaking in on the right side. To their credit, the Wings had players back in position. Rather than drive down the wing, Kessel pulled up looking for a pass and found Malkin coming late. The pass was in Malkin’s skates, but Geno played the puck quickly up to his stick, off of both skates and ripped a quick wrist shot past Howard’s stick side.
Although he didn’t get an assist, Matt Hunwick does deserve a lot of credit on the goal. Hunwick was also coming in late on the play and drove down the slot drawing Wing’s defenders with him and giving Malkin a soft spot to slip into.
Crosby closed out the scoring on a power play goal. Kris Letang faked a shot from center point before passing over to Malkin in the Right Wing circle. Malkin tried to fire a one-time shot at the net but misfired. The shot missed wide right and bounced off of the boards behind the net. Kessel quickly fed the loose puck out in front of the net. Crosby deftly lifted the stick of Frans Nielsen, to prevent him from blocking the pass, then quickly reset his stick to slip a wrist shot 5-hole on Howard.
Crosby finished with a goal and an assist earning him 3rd Star. Kessel notched a goal and had 2 assists to get the second star. Malkin’s 2 goals and 2 assists garnered him the top spot, the number 1 Star.
If the Penguins are getting hot, it would seem that now is a really good time to do so.
Odds and Sods
As the game wound down, in the final moments, the local fans started chanting “Geno, Geno,” hoping for the big Center could get himself the hat trick while being flanked by Tom Kuhnhackl and Ryan Reaves. The makeshift line did cause some stir in the Wings’ zone but all was for naught.
In those closing seconds, a Wings’ defender got into a shoving match with Geno as the play went back the other way. What I found very interesting on this play was that it appeared that Reaves had his head on a swivel and noticed the Wings trying to start something with his Center because Reaves, who had been skating to get back into his defensive zone suddenly peeled off and headed back the other way.
Tristan Jarry got the nod in goal with Matt Murray out and back at his home. Jarry shook off his last start against Boston and rejected 29 of 30 shots to earn his 8th win.
The Wilkes Barre – Scranton won back-to-back games Last night and tonight getting hat tricks in both games. In the front end of the back-to-back series, Ryan Haggerty paced the Baby Penguins with his Hat trick in a 6 – 2win over the Belleville Senators. On the back end, Andrey Pedan notched his Hat Trick in a 4 – 3 win over Laval. Haggerty has 16 goals and 11 assists and is a +17 in 26 games. Pedan has 5 goals and 11 assists with a +11 manning the Baby Penguins blue line in 31 games. I really would like to get the chance to see Pedan play. I can’t help wonder if he could help the big club.