The dreaded two-goal lead. What would the Penguins earned one, but what would they do? Would the team get tight and sit on the lead to their ultimate demise? Would they, I don’t know, fly casual?
The Penguins instead weathered a brief Carolina pushback and regained control of the game en route to a 3-0 shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes. It helps when Sidney Crosby is serving more dishes than the mess hall. Crosby set up Jake Guentzel twice and Kris Letang so the Penguins could cruise to their fifth win in six games and third win in a row.
“You could feel him taking over,” smiled Jake Guentzel.
Yes, yes you could. This was Sidney Crosby’s game and poor Carolina didn’t have an answer.
“We’ve created in different ways. We’ve got some chacnes on the rush. We’ve also been good down low and strong on pucks,” said Crosby for whom the term strong on pucks seems a dramatic understatement.
This is the Penguins first three-game win streak since the October Canadian road trip.
Carolina allowed the Penguins to skate and play on the rush, then occasionally tried to cover in a man-to-man defense. The Penguins are not the speedsters they were, but their skill, creativity and overall talent level kept them in charge.
The Penguins offense came from down low, at least the goals did. The Penguins did get chances off the rush and transition as Carolina was a bit sloppy with the puck. Carolina had numbers back on each Penguins goal, too. Crosby threaded the puck between defenders and Guentzel did a good job of finding seams in the Carolina coverage.
Though if I covered Carolina, I’d tell you the forwards did a bad job of picking up the open man.
The Penguins middle lines–Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin remain separated–did not score but each line had good opportunities though not an abundance of great ones. Evgeni Malkin was considerably better–see below for more analysis.
One interesting note, head coach Mike Sullivan again deployed Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the penalty kill. The move has more implications than simply killing a penalty. Crosby and Guentzel not only give the opponents pause and add immediate threat, but the move also changes the team mindset.
When a team is looking to score shorthanded, the team mindset also becomes more aggressive throughout the rest of the game.
Another note, the Penguins rode their fourth line in the third period to shut down the Carolina top line with Sebastien Aho. Matt Cullen, Zach Aston-Reese and Riley Sheahan locked down the game. Shutting down the Carolina top line is a feat at which not many lines have been successful.