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Penguins Wrap: Lots of Positives, One Clunker



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, NHL news

The Pittsburgh Penguins elevated themselves back into playoff contention by winning their first three games last week.

Although those seven days ended on a down note, with a 4-1 loss at home to Toronto Saturday, it was, in general, a positive week for them.

Here’s a look back at the week that was:


The Penguins were playing for the third time in four nights when they visited Chicago, and it showed in their performance, but that didn’t prevent them from completing a perfect 3-0 road trip.

The game against the Blackhawks was the 1,000th of Evgeni Malkin’s NHL career, and that milestone did not go unnoticed. Or fail to generate reactions inside the Penguins’ locker room.


The Penguins had a scheduled day off after returning home with victories in Minnesota, Winnipeg and Chicago, but there still were plenty of issues to ponder. High on that list is whether they should re-sign Jason Zucker, who finally was healthy and starting to play the way the Penguins hoped he would when they acquired him from the Wild.

It shouldn’t have surprised anyone after he put up 11 points in four games, but Sidney Crosby was honored as the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week.


The Penguins’ power play has underachieved for most of the season, and part of the problem has been members of the No. 1 unit’s penchant for passing up shots to give the puck to a teammate. Mike Sullivan decided to address that by moving Jeff Petry to the right point on his top group during a rare practice at PPG Paints Arena.

Ryan Poehling seemed like he might just be a throw-in when the Penguins acquired Petry from Montreal this summer, but he’s making the most of his new opportunity and developing into a valuable role player.

Petry wasn’t the only one to get a promotion on this day. Ty Hennes, the Penguins’ longtime skills coach, was named a full-fledged assistant on Sullivan’s staff.


The Penguins — and the Thanksgiving Eve crowd at PPG Paints Arena — celebrated Malkin’s 1000th game, and Malkin put an exclamation point on an emotional evening by scoring the shootout-deciding goal in a 2-1 victory against Calgary.

Flames coach Darryl Sutter made what seemed like a peculiar decision when he started Dan Vladar in goal instead of Jacob Markstrom, considering that Markstrom had stopped 98 of 100 shots in his previous three games against the Penguins. However, Vladar validated Sutter’s move with a strong showing that was dampened only a little by Malkin’s shootout heroics.

Mike Sullivan can’t bring himself to watch how his players fare in shootouts. Too bad, because he probably would have enjoyed what Malkin did.

The Penguins got some good news at the game-day skate, when goalie Casey DeSmith, who had been injured in Chicago and was held out of practice Tuesday, was able to participate.


It was a fairly unconventional Thanksgiving for the Pittsburgh Penguins — they had a practice, then traveled to Philadelphia — but they still were thankful to be on a positive streak after going through one of the other kind just a short time earlier.

The first quarter of the season was winding down, and the Penguins clearly had plenty of room for improvement. We took a look at several of the things that could make that happen.


Marcus Pettersson lost a fight — but won a ton of respect — when he traded punches with Philadelphia tough guy Nic Deslauriers after Deslauriers delivered a hard hit on Pettersson’s defense partner, Kris Letang.

The Deslauriers-Pettersson fight might be the only thing the hapless Flyers win for a while. The Penguins once went 42 games without a victory in Philadelphia, but now win there in a regular basis, including the 4-1 decision that stretched their winning streak to five games.

If the game against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center was supposed to be a test for the Penguins, most of them passed it in impressive fashion.


The game started badly for the Penguins when Toronto scored off a putrid line change 40 seconds into the first period, and didn’t get much better for most of the evening in their 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins had plenty to be unhappy and frustrated about in the aftermath of the beatdown by Toronto, and they definitely were.

If you found the aforementioned line change difficult to understand, let alone explain, you were not alone. The Penguins know the feeling.