With all the excitement surrounding general manager Ray Shero’s trade wizardry and acquisition of Jarome Iginla early Thursday morning, the Penguins-Jets tilt scheduled for that night at CONSOL Energy Center felt somewhat forgotten about. Put on the back burner, in a sense.
But then the Penguins put on quite a memorable effort against the Jets in a game their opponent probably wants to erase, beating Winnipeg 4-0 to win their 14th straight game and 11th straight home game, tying the franchise record established Jan. 5-March 7, 1991.
The Penguins dominated Winnipeg with a complete 60-minute effort, playing in the offensive zone and throwing 43 shots at Jets goalie Al Montoya while allowing just 20 of their own.
“Tonight’s game was the type of game where we played defense in the offensive zone,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We spent a lot of time there, especially in the last 50 minutes, a real display of playing in the offensive zone, grinding a team down and not giving them a lot of chances with the puck.”
Tomas Vokoun got his second shutout of the season and 50th of his career. Pascal Dupuis tallied twice for the Penguins while Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin rounded out the scoring.
Tomas Vokoun relieved Marc-Andre Fleury for the third period of Pittsburgh’s last game against the Canadiens, allowing no goals and ensuring the Penguins got a 1-0 victory over the Canadiens – a shared shutout, with neither goalie getting it on their record.
It didn’t take Vokoun long to get one of his own, his second of the season and 50th of his career.
“It’s pretty cool, pretty nice milestone,” Vokoun said. “You know, they don’t come easy in this league, so it was great to watch. It was one of the best games I’ve been part of and we dominated with great hockey. It just shows how strong this team is and it was great to watch from my end.”
He didn’t see a high volume of shots, but had to come up big on a lengthy Jets 5-on-3 and made a stupendous breakaway save on Kyle Wellwood in the third period.
“’Voky’ played awesome,” Dupuis said.
He even got his second point of the season when he assisted on Dupuis’ shorthanded goal in the second period.
(Note: Fleury participated in morning skate this a.m., but did not dress for the game. The Penguins recalled Jeff Zatkoff from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and he dressed as Vokoun’s backup, with Fleury being scratched).
It doesn’t matter where Pascal Dupuis is slotted in Pittsburgh’s lineup when everyone’s present; he’s going to give 100 percent on the ice.
And on Thursday, he did that playing the right wing on Sidney Crosby’s line – producing an energetic effort that resulted in a pair of goals – one shorthanded – in the 4-0 win.
Dupuis had been flying all over the ice from the moment he led the team onto it to start the game; so much so that he just seemed destined for a goal. He got his first one early in the second period on a play carried by pretty passes from linemates Crosby and Chris Kunitz, while his second came late in the second period on a penalty kill. He beat Jets goalie Al Montoya for his eighth shorthanded goal in the last three seasons, which is the most in the NHL during that span.
The team tried hard to get him a third goal to complete the hat trick, and Dupuis tried mightily – finishing with seven shots, three attempts blocked and four that missed the net. But he couldn’t capitalize, leaving him with his fourth two-goal effort of the season.
“Obviously when you get two goals, they’re looking for you a little more,” Dupuis said, lamenting, “There at the end I hit the crossbar, I’ll dream about that one a little bit.”
Overall, the line of Kunitz, Crosby and Dupuis all finished with two points each in the contest – continuing to show why they are currently the NHL’s best forward combination. And tonight, Dupuis showed just how valuable he is to this Penguins team with his versatility. He can skate, shoot and score but is responsible defensively and an asset on the penalty kill.
MURRAY MAKES DEBUT
Murray’s biggest strength is his physicality, but the asset most prominently on display in his Penguins debut on Thursday night was his powerful shot.
The defenseman had about four shot attempts in the first period, with his teammates feeding him the puck at the point and winding up to release bombs at the Jets net. Murray wasn’t able to tickle the twine, but he seemed like he was going to get his first of the season on Thursday the way he was throwing pucks to the net.
“He said after the game that he had more shots today than he had all year last year,” Dupuis smiled, “So he looked good out there.”
“These guys are really special with what they’re doing out there, obviously, and created a lot of space for me to shoot today,” Murray said, jokingly adding, “and you can see why I don’t have more goals than I do in my career. But no, it’s fun.”
Murray, who skated on a pairing with Matt Niskanen, finished with 18:20 minutes of ice time – logging nearly two minutes on the penalty kill. Murray also recorded three hits in the game, impressing his teammates with his overall effort.
“You guys got the first look at Douglas Murray tonight and it’s pretty impressive there,” Dupuis said. “The way he’s already stepping up for teammates when stuff happens out there and that was great to see.”
Murray said tonight turned out to be a perfect transitional game with the way the team played.
“I was happy to get a game like that,” he said. “The team played great. Those are easier games to play and it’s nice when a lot of things are new. Usually when you’re on offense more there’s not as much going on system-wise, so it was a great first game and transition game.
“There’s going to be a little learning curve here for a little while until you just act normally with it instead of thinking. You’re a lot quicker that way so I’ll just have to put in the work and make it as smooth as possible.”
The Penguins didn’t have a power play on Thursday night, but they didn’t need one as they dominated on the penalty kill. Not only did the Penguins score a shorthanded goal, they killed off all four of the Jets power plays, allowing them just four total shots on the man-advantage.
The highlight came in the third period, where the Jets had 1:56 minutes on the 5-on-3 with defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen both in the box. Pittsburgh got heroic efforts from all their penalty killers, especially Craig Adams (who sacrificed the body for a huge block), Matt Cooke, Brandon Sutter, Tanner Glass and Paul Martin, with Vokoun standing tall in goal. They thwarted the Jets and kept them from gaining zero momentum.
“That 5-on-3 was an awesome job by the guys out there,” Bylsma said. “Tanner Glass, Brandon Sutter getting a blocked shot. Craig Adams had two blocked shots. Matt Cooke, Paul Martin in front of the net. With 1:56 and a 4-0 lead in the third period, guys absolutely showed a lot of courage. To me that was the highlight of the game.”
“I just want to come back and play how I can,” Malkin said this morning before making his return to the lineup on Thursday against the Jets after missing nine games with an upper-body injury.
The reigning NHL MVP did just that, scoring a goal in his first game back. Malkin, skating with usual linemate James Neal and new addition Brenden Morrow, gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead with just 1:28 left in the first period.
On the play, Douglas Murray protected the puck with his body and sent a backhand D-to-D pass over to Matt Niskanen, who found Neal in the corner. Neal threw the puck across the slot to Malkin, which hit his skate, bouncing off Montoya’s skate and deflecting back off Malkin’s skate into the net. The play was reviewed, but stood as a good goal as it was determined there was no kicking motion.
It was nice passing work, but the play doesn’t happen without Morrow tying up two white jerseys around the blue paint to allow Neal’s feed to go through.
Morrow’s strengths shone through playing with Malkin and Neal. He looked so much like Kunitz when he had success on that line last season, wreaking havoc around the net and creating space for his linemates.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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