It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh as the Penguins took to the ice for their tenth game of the regular season. And for the first time in the 2011-2012 schedule, they met an fellow Atlantic division “rival,” the New Jersey Devils.
Off to a fast-pace, both teams were afforded (and consequently missed) some excellent scoring opportunities very early on in the first period. Just five minutes into play, the Devils David Clarkson would be sent to the box for a high-stick on Pens net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins would head to the man advantage and just 36 seconds in it would be Jordan Staal with the first of the night, his fourth of the season and his 99th of his career. Teammates Matt Cooke and Richard Park would make series of well controlled passes around the net before Park would smoothly pass the puck to Staal. Staal would then rip a snap shot past Devils’ net-minder Johan Hedberg, giving the Pens a 1-0 lead. Heading to the locker rooms after the first twenty, the Devils held the slight advantage in shots by a margin of one as the number of recorded shots was 10 to 9.
On to the second, where neither team would be able to capitalize on a scoring opportunity despite a heavy control of play by the Devils in the first ten minutes. Neither team would be penalized in the second twenty and after the first forty, having recorded seven shots in the first seven miuntes of the game, the Devils would continued to outshoot the Penguins 9 to 4.
Just thirty-seven seconds into the third, the Devils’ Petr Sykora would be sent to the box for four minutes for a double minor high-sticking call. Interestingly enough, video replay would show that it was teammate Patrick Elias responsible for the high-sticking that drew blood from Pens forward Steve Sullivan. Sykora later apologized for the incident, claiming he knew what was going on but didn’t want his team to have to be without Elias for the first four minutes of the period. Whatever Sykora’s logic behind the move was, it appeared to work as Elias would earn himself a short-handed goal, tying the game at one a piece less than two minutes in. The Penguins, however, did not take this well and Elias goal was followed by three unanswered goals courtesy of the boys in the black and gold uniforms. The Penguins first of the period would come courtesy of Chris Kunitz while the Penguins were still on the power-play the high-stich had allowed them. (17:53) Jordan Staal would follow suit a minute and ten seconds later with a backhander of his goal, earning Staal his 100th of his career. James Neal would seal the deal with his eighth of the season with just over eleven minutes of play remaining with a snap shot that found the mesh behind Hedberg. All three of the Penguins goals came in a span of approximately six minutes and seven seconds and New Jersey, unfortunately for them, would be unable to respond to the sudden shift in momentum. As the final horn went, outshooting the Devils’ 29-24, the Penguins would earn the “W” with a final score of 4-1.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 23:35 of ice time while Paul Martin followed suit with 23:29 and Jordan Staal banking 22:14. Jordan Staal and Dustin Jeffrey (in his first game back this season) each registered five shots on goal, while Kris Letang followed suit with 4. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced while Hedberg stopped 25 of the 29 he faced. With their season at 6-2-2, the Penguins continue to sit second in the east and in the league, right on the heels of the Washington Capitals while leading the Atlantic Division, five points ahead of Philadelphia. James Neal continues to lead the league in goals scored while Marc-Andre Fleury has moved into the third spot for most wins by a goalie.
Tonight’s game saw the return of the Penguins Dustin Jeffrey who missed a good portion of the second half of last season to an injury. Captain Sidney Crosby, who continues to work toward his return to the game and who has been cleared for contact in practice, continues to take his time in recovering from the concussion that saw him side-lined for the second half of the regular season last year while Evgeni Malkin missed his fifth straight game as a result of knee surgery Malkin underwent last year following a nasty collision with Buffalo’s TylerMyers. Winger Tyler Kennedy, who suffered a concussion sometime last week, continues to recover but there is no timeline for his return to the game. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who headed down the runway to the locker room in the dying minutes of the game following a blocked shot is believed to have injured his hand, according to head coach Dan Bylsma, and is to be evaluated tomorrow.
The Penguins are head back out on the road again as they travel to New York where they will take on the Islanders. The game goes Tuesday, October 25th at 7:00pm.