The headline may look cutesy but it’s a double entendre as the Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating and grinding in their 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets, Friday at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins played well in every phase of the game, made the right plays even when the pretty play beaconed, and took down a Stanley Cup contender.
Early in the first period, the Penguins flexed their muscle and quicker legs. The Penguins won four straight shifts and did so with simple, no-frills plays which led to puck possession and scoring chances. Even the Penguins third line with Derick Brassard and Phil Kessel used a few passes to enter the zone before Phil Kessel snapped a one-footed wrist shot and later Brassard nearly deflected a shot past Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
The Penguins second goal was indicative of their effort–it was a fourth line goal with a bit of speed and gritty luck. Zach Aston-Reese dodged a check and shot the puck. His shot was deflected and fluttered to the net where it bounced of Matt Cullen an into the net.
There was no great secret to the Penguins success, Friday. In fact, the success formula was the opposite of secret. It was simplicity, good decisions and making their luck.
“We’re supporting the puck better. And when we support the puck better, we can change the point of attack quickly. And nothing moves faster than the puck,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “When our puck support is there, we automatically look faster.”
Another example of the heady play which seemed contagious Friday was Kris Letang’s first-period play. Letang barged into the offensive zone but pulled up on the midwall. Ordinarily, this is where the Penguins make a cross-ice pass in hopes of a glorious scoring chance but that chance is often against them when the pass feeds the opposition transition. Instead, Letang zipped the puck along the wall to the opposite wall.
The sequence continued as the Penguins won a couple of puck battles and gained a scoring chance. It wasn’t flashy or pretty. It was smart and effective.
“I think we’re really playing well with the puck,” said Olli Maatta. “We’re not turning it over in bad spots. We’re not really giving too many freebies.”
In the middle of the second period, the Penguins defense pairing of Marcus Pettersson and Jack Johnson worked a slick give-and-go through center ice with Patric Hornqvist which nearly resulted in a goal by Pettersson. It was that kind of night for the Penguins; they received contributions from their entire lineup.
Up passes which were bricks in New York, Wednesday were silky smooth, Friday. The Penguins controlled the puck and territory.
The Penguins maintained positioning and puck pursuit which kept them in control.
Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card
Evgeni Malkin: A