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Penguins Room: Joseph Steps Up; Friedman Has Fun



ANAHEIM, Calif. — P.O Joseph had played 66 games in the NHL before Friday night, but none quite like the one he produced during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-3 victory against Anaheim at Honda Center.

Joseph scored two goals — his first multiple-goal game at this level — and added an assist to match his career-best of three points, a performance that helped the Penguins overcome the absence of No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang, who sat out the game because of illness.

Indeed, Joseph suggested that being without Letang was part of the reason he stepped up the way he did against the Ducks.

“Whenever a big defenseman like that is sick, you just want to make sure you protect the good ice and you step up as defensemen,” Joseph said. “I think we did a pretty good job tonight.”

No one did it better than Joseph, however.

He got his first goal at 9:03 of the first period, on a wrist shot through traffic from the high slot. Joseph scored his second, which ended up being the game-winner, at 14:55 of the second, putting a shot over goalie John Gibson’s blocker from above the left hash.

Both were well-placed, hard shots, but Joseph credited the goals to the forwards — Teddy Blueger and Evgeni Malkin, respectively — who got the puck to him.

“It was just opportunities that were created by the forwards,” Joseph said. “I just had the chance to put it in.”

Joseph accounted for four of the 20 shots Penguins defensemen launched at Gibson, as they were consistently active and involved in the offense.

“When a big player like Kris is out, you just try to take advantage of it,” he said. “We had to help the forwards with some offense. I think we did a pretty good job tonight, just moving around and creating some room for our forwards to make some plays.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins seemed intent on trying to get Joseph a hat trick during the final period, but it didn’t work out for him. So far as Joseph could recall, it never has, at any level of organized hockey.

“I don’t think so, even in (youth) hockey,” he said. “It never happened before.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s resigned to never getting three goals in a game, though.

“It will come,” he said, “whenever it will come.”


Mark Friedman

Mark Friedman was supposed to have Friday night off.

Nothing unusual about that. He’s the No. 7 defenseman on a team that generally dresses six.

But Friedman learned a little more than two hours before gametime that he would be spending the evening in his work clothes because of Letang’s illness.

“Probably about 4:45 I found out that he wasn’t feeling so well,” Friedman said.

He acknowledged that finding out so late that he’d be in the lineup can complicate preparations for the game, but added that that goes with the niche he fills for this team.

“It’s tough, but the role I’m in the NHL, you always have to be ready to go,” he said. “Like I’ve said so many times, it’s just another chance to play. And it’s pretty fun when you get to do that.”

And make no mistake, Friedman, an elite-level antagonist, was ready to go. And he seemed to have fun.

He annoyed Ducks forward Mason McTavish enough that McTavish picked up a double-minor for high-sticking him in the first period, and later scuffled with Anaheim defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk after taking exception to the way Shattenkirk had tripped Jake Guentzel.

Friedman, who was plugged into Letang’s spot opposite Brian Dumoulin on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ No. 1 defense pairing, logged 19 minutes, 50 seconds of ice time, during which he recorded four shots, a hit and a blocked shot.

Casey DeSmith

Casey DeSmith knows what it’s like for a goaltender to go through tough times, so he had more than a little empathy for his Anaheim counterpart, John Gibson.

Gibson faced no fewer than 59 shots and turned in a near-miraculous performance to limit the Penguins to six goals.

“There was a lot of zone time (for the Penguins), a lot of pucks on net, a lot of good chances,” said DeSmith, who stopped 28 of 31 shots. “I thought (Gibson) played a good game. The guys, in the offensive zone, played great. We really did what we wanted tonight. It was nice to see.”

And the Penguins did it from the earliest moments of play, as they registered 10 of the first 11 shots in the game.

“We obviously started well,” DeSmith said. “And I thought we carried it for most of the game.”

After the game, Mike Sullivan deflected a question about starting DeSmith again when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Los Angeles Saturday night — he said it was possible that either of their two goalies could face the Kings — but DeSmith made it clear he wouldn’t object to being used again.

“Obviously, I’m always up to play,” he said. “But it’s not my decision.”