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Riikola, Penguins Hit High Notes; Pens Beat St. Louis 6-1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins power play would have made Wendy’s proud as it was a perfect four-for-four. The Penguins added extra fries with a couple of even strength goals, defenseman Juuso Riikola couldn’t stop smiling after his first NHL goal and goalie Matt Murray was his vintage big-goalie self. The Penguins drove thru the St. Louis Blues 6-1, Saturday at the Enterprise Arena.

The win was the Penguins fifth in a row. And Murray has won five straight since returning from the IR, too.

“Murr [sic] made some big saves and allowed us to capitalize on the chances we got,” Sidney Crosby said. “The power play was good.”

The Penguins power play struck early and often. Alex Steen high-sticked Sidney Crosby on the opening faceoff and Crosby lit the lamp, first. The Penguins worked the puck quickly and efficiently to the front of the net to Patric Hornqvist. Instead of trying to stuff the puck through St. Louis goalie Jake Allen, Hornqvist slipped a pass to Sidney Crosby, lurking on the goal line. Crosby (17) flipped it into the open net.

“My former coach Pat Burns, God rest his soul, he always used to say a power play is like a cat: You can’t train it,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “Sometimes it’s hard to figure out.”

The Penguins power play not only scored four goals Saturday, but the unit was also two for three on Thursday against Detroit.

Five minutes into the second period, the Penguins power play magic appeared to wane. The St. Louis penalty kill had more chances on the Penguins second power play, until the final moments. The Penguins second power-play unit crashed low, and Riikola (1) had wide open spaces at the top of the zone. The Finnish rookie stepped into a hard slap shot from the top of the zone which whizzed past Allen’s glove.

It was Riikola’s second point this season and first career NHL goal. It was his 19th career game.

Two minutes later, the Penguins top line showed the low zone work for which they are notorious to opponents. Penguins top line forward Bryan Rust did not return for the second period, and Zach Aston-Reese claimed the right wing on that line. The new trio worked the puck around the zone and Aston-Reese (5) showed slick hands by deflecting Kris Letang’s hard pass to the top shelf.

“Rust is being evaluated for a lower body injury. We’ll probably have more information tomorrow,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.

And two minutes after that, the Penguins power play scored the hat trick of sorts.

Norris trophy contender Letang (9) slipped a wrist shot through traffic including Hornqvist, who took away vision Allen hoped to have.

Allen was yanked from the net after being pickled for four goals and Jordan Binnington was left to face the Penguins power-play and he too was burned.

St. Louis dominated the even strength play in the second period, but the Penguins put the stake in the St. Louis heart just a few minutes into the third period. Recently paid Jake Guentzel dared to score another even strength goal. Guentzel (16) deflected Brian Dumoulin’s shot for a 5-1 lead and the end of the competitive play.

In the goal celebration, Aston-Reese and St. Louis defenseman Joel Edmundson dropped the gloves but St. Louis forward David Perron took an extra penalty during the scrap.

The Penguins power play needed just 33 seconds to score their fourth man-advantage goal. Evgeni Malkin (12) one-timed a shot from the right wing circle.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was exceptional, Saturday. He made several sparkling saves on St. Louis forward Patrick Maroon and Jaden Schwartz. Murray forced St. Louis to be too fine with their shots. Murray stopped 30 shots.

“It wasn’t even close to a 6-1 game. They had some great opportunities. (Murray) made some huge saves,” admitted Crosby.

Sidney Crosby had four points (1g, 3a), Phil Kessel had three assists and Letang had three points (1g, 2a).

 

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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