PITTSBURGH — It was evident in the opening moments, Pittsburgh Penguins captain and all-time great Sidney Crosby was not going to let the Penguins winless slide continue another game. Crosby set up the Penguins first goal with a deft pass and scored another hard goal later in the first period to propel the Penguins to an easy 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars, Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.
“We came out flying,” said winning goaltender Casey DeSmith. “I’m happy we did.”
Penguins were the midst of a 1-7-2 freefall. Coaches have been preaching and players have been attempting to play a simpler game. They did so for half of the game, Monday against the Buffalo Sabres but lost their way. The Penguins started strong and simple against Dallas. And they maintained that direction.
The Penguins cycled the puck early. Four minutes into the game, Crosby slid a backhand pass across the slot to Jake Guentzel (8) whose one-timer slipped through Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin. Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist was creating chaos in the crease and may have prevented Khudobin from sliding to his left to make the save, but Dallas did not challenge.
Just two minutes later, the Penguins converted on the power play. Evgeni Malkin extended his points streak to five games by dragging, holding…and holding the puck across the slot. Malkin (8) eventually whipped it stick side past Khudobin.
And at the midway point of the opening period, Sidney Crosby did what Sidney Crosby does. Crosby raced through center-ice for a cleared puck, stormed the Dallas zone, powered past Dallas defenseman Esa Lindell, cut along the goal line for a backhand shot then defied what should be possible as he kicked the bouncing rebound to his stick while heading in the opposite direction.
And yet words fail to describe it.
Mike Sullivan encapsulated Crosby’s game well, “Our team is foot taller when he is in the lineup,” the head coach said. “I thought his game was inspiring.”
“We played a really good game tonight. (Casey DeSmith) made some really good saves,” said Crosby as he deflected attention and praise. “Everyone through the lineup generated chances, so it was good to see.”
Crosby’s tour de force continued into the second period. He plucked a Dallas clearing attempt out of mid-air, settled the puck as he changed direction then snapped a pass to open defenseman Olli Maatta at the point. Matta’s shot deflected to Hornqvist (9) who neatly buried the rebound for a 4-0 lead.
And for a little salt on the turkey, new Penguins winger Tanner Pearson blasted a shot over Khudobin midway through the second period.
Dallas managed just eight shots in the first 30 minutes and 19 shots overall.
“That was something we really needed, to get the momentum,” said DeSmith. “And we just kind of rode it. That was awesome.”
DeSmith did make a pair of applause generating saves. Early in the second period, he stopped Tyler Seguin on a breakaway. And DeSmith robbed Mattias Janmark on the doorstep with a sprawling leg save. And that save began the sequence which culminated in Pearson’s tally.
Midway through the third period, Mattias Janmark broke up DeSmith’s shutout. Roope Hintz’ pass bounced past Crosby and through Kris Letang to Jamark who flipped it past DeSmith.
And just for good measure, Crosby also double shifted numerous times on the Penguins fourth line between Riley Sheahan and Bryan Rust.
The Penguins captain is back and now it is up to the Penguins to build off the win. They lost three straight after their last win; another victory over a lesser talented Western Conference foe–the Arizona Coyotes.