For the second time in two games, the Pittsburgh Penguins raced to a big lead after two periods against the New Jersey Devils. It was 6-0 on Tuesday. 5-1 on Thursday. The big difference on Thursday was the lack of Penguins implosion, as the team apparently did learn its lesson.
The Penguins held New Jersey in check and won, 5-1 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday night.
In the opening seconds, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby clearly sent a message to his team. Crosby dished a hard hit on the first shift of the game and had a pair of high-danger scoring chances, a takeaway, and then Crosby snapped a short-side shot past New Jersey goalie Aaron Dell.
It took Crosby just 41 seconds to erase the uneasiness which may have carried over from the Penguins six-goal nuclear collapse on Tuesday night. Crosby (19) picked off a breakout pass and shot short side. 1-0.
“Coming off of last game, we weren’t happy with the third,” Crosby said. “We wanted to have a good start and get in the right frame of mind, and it was nice to get one early.”
When Crosby hits 20 goals he will pass Mario Lemieux and Evgeni Malkin for most 20-goals in franchise history.
The Penguins responded with puck possession, and newly activated Kasperi Kapanen stole the puck at center ice to create a two-on-one. Dell made the save, but the Penguins were attacking.
However, midway through the first period, New Jersey journeyman defenseman Matt Tennyson (1) scored on a long-range slapshot from the blue line. Perhaps it is better to have seen the puck and lost than to have never seen it at all (Lord Tennyson reference).
The Penguins scored the next four goals, beginning with defenseman Cody Ceci.
Late in the first period, Dell returned the soft-goal gift from Jarry. Dell didn’t see Ceci’s (4) shot from the blue line. Ask not for whom the Dell tolled, for it tolled for Ceci (Donne).
In the second period, neither team tightened up, but the Penguins put a few in the net.
Crosby again launched the Penguins offense. He intercepted a centering pass, and in a show of lightning transition speed, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel were flying before Crosby even settled the pass. Crosby zipped a pass ahead to Rust for a two-on-one.
Guentzel back to Rust (19) for a 3-1 lead.
Kasperi Kapanen was activated from the IR before the game. He provided a bolt of energy to the bottom line and had a couple of shifts with the first line, too.
Midway through the second period, Kapanen stormed the New Jersey zone one-on-two but went wide of the defensemen for an open shot. Kapanen (8) slipped it through Dell’s five-hole as the big goalie adjusted to Kapanen’s angle.
This time the bell tolled for Dell. Scott Wedgewood replaced Dell, but the Penguins had another goal in the quiver.
Late in the second period, the Pittsburgh Penguins struck shorthanded. Teddy Blueger went end-to-end. The puck hog didn’t pass, and instead, Blueger (7) ripped it past Wedgewood. It was Blueger’s third shortie this season.
Tristan Jarry stopped 30 of 31 shots. The Penguins reduced their magic number to eight points to clinch a playoff spot, after Philadelphia beat the New York Rangers in regulation.
PHN’s Three Stars:
- Kasperi Kapanen
Miss a month? No problem. Kapanen had his A-game and was fast on Thursday night. Kapanen was one of five Penguins with two points (1g, 1a). His addition to the Penguins lineup is a rising tide.
- Bryan Rust
Rust scored a goal and was an integral part of the Penguins offensive attack. He rang the post in the third period on the second two-on-one on which Crosby launched he and Guentzel. Rust has two point (1g, 1a).
- Sidney Crosby
Someday, we won’t have Crosby around. Hockey will be worse off. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain was large, literally, as he played physical, hounded the puck, and tortured New Jersey in all three phases. He led the Penguins with four shots and had two points (1g, 1a).