The Pittsburgh Penguins perfect road trip continued with several firsts, nine flashing red lamps and a few more sparking saves by Matt Murray in a 9-1 win over the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome, Thursday. It was the Penguins third consecutive win and an otherwise controlling performance.
The Penguins made several lineup changes, too. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and forward Derek Grant played their first game of the season. It was Grant’s first game as a Penguin. Bryan Rust scored his first goal of the season, as did Matt Cullen and Jack Johnson scored his first goal as a Penguin.
Sidney Crosby picked up where he left off. After a jaw-dropping overtime goal to beat Edmonton, Tuesday, Crosby flexed his otherworldly skills with another nifty snipe just four minutes into the game. Crosby gained a step on the Calgary defense, cut towards the net and roofed the backhand over Calgary goaltender Mike Smith.
“I saw some space there,” said Crosby. “I got some help. I think it ramped up off their defenseman’s stick. Just trying to get to the net and got a fortunate bounce there.”
Crosby finished with one goal and two assists. Derick Brassard who played the entire game on Crosby’s left wing had three assists.
Dog bites man. Politician panders. The Penguins power-play scores.
Late in the first period, the Penguins converted their first power play chance. Patric Hornqvist (3) deflected a Crosby deflection of an Evgeni Malkin shot. The goal may eventually be awarded to Crosby so Hornqvist later added insurance in case it’s taken away.
Calgary rolled out the red carpet for Penguins winger Bryan Rust in the final minute of the opening period. Off the rush, Rust had the slot to himself. Calgary netminder Mike Smith stopped the first shot but Rust followed the puck as Calgary defender Travis Hamonic curiously watched. Rust poked the rebound past Smith for the Penguins third goal of the period.
The Penguins added four more markers in the second period, including a pair from Phil Kessel.
Just over one minute into the second period, Kessel snapped a quick shot from the mid-wall then chased the rebound. Calgary defenseman T.J. Brodie couldn’t keep up. Kessel finished his second chance and the Calgary fire was out.
Several minutes later, Hornqvist (4) kept the puck for the shot on a two-on-one. An honorable mention to Penguins left wing Riley Sheahan for good wall work in the defensive zone to spring Hornqvist on the break.
Midway through the period, the Penguins killed off a Kessel slashing penalty. Then Kris Letang sprung Kessel on a breakaway, as Kessel exited the penalty box. Kessel (6) ripped the wrister behind Smith. The Penguins were rolling and the Flames were stumbling.
Calgary coach Bill Peters mercifully, and finally, pulled Smith after Kessel’s tally.
And just for fun, Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson fired a missile, figuratively of course, past Calgary backup goalie David Rittich. It was the Penguins second power-play goal and Johnson’s first goal as a Penguin. The shot was in and out so quickly, Rittich turned around quickly to find the puck, only to realize it was a goal.
The Penguins couldn’t keep the puck out of the net for the entire third period. Jake Guentzel (5) deflected a shot-pass from Crosby with just over five minutes remaining. Matt Cullen (1) one-timed a shot past Rittich with almost 90 seconds remaining.
Murray stopped 39 shots. His shutout was broken by former Penguins sniper, James Neal. Neal fanned on the shot which fluttered past Murray who had already waved at the puck. Murray was otherwise impenetrable and held the fort while Calgary attempted more shots than the Penguins.
“We did a good job to hold them to one fluky one,” as Murray could only laugh at himself for allowing the Neal goal.
15 Penguins had at least one point. Ruhwedel, Grant and Carl Hagelin were the three skaters without a point.