While the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to make noise off the ice, the team continued to roll on it.
Dominating the Winnipeg Jets 4-0, the Pens got forward Evgeni Malkin back in their lineup and recorded their 14th straight victory.
Pittsburgh remains atop the NHL with 54 points and they improve their record to 27-8-0. Â And even though the team played without their newest forward Jarome Iginla, the team didn’t really need him Thursday night.
A force up and down the ice, the Pens displayed relentless pressure that just flat-out suffocated the Jets in every aspect of the game.
From face-offs to killing off five on three penalties, Pittsburgh showed why they’re the best team in hockey right now.
Congratulations go to Tomas Vokoun, who stopped all 20 of the shots he faced and recorded his 50th career shutout.
Starting for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury, Vokoun turned aside a couple of shorthanded opportunities and he staved off three power play chances, one being a five on three.
Winning his last four starts for Pittsburgh,Â Vokoun’s record improves to 9-3-0 in 15 starts overall, with a 2.51 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
Chris Kunitz notched his 20th goal of the season and gave the Penguins their first tally of the game, 15:03 into the first period.
He was also able to register an assist on the night, so for Kunitz, that means he now reclaims second place behind Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in points with 44 (20G, 24A).
Crosby, meanwhile, improvedÂ his points total to 56 (15G, 41A) by recording two helpers Thursday, and he remains 12 up on Kunitz for the league lead in that category.
As if his Hart trophy pitch couldn’t get any more attractive, trust it’s just the beginning for Crosby.
Malkin returned after missing the last nine games with an upper-body injury and did not disappoint.
Scoring 18:32 into the first period, the man they call “Geno” gave the squad a dynamically-explosive boost throughout the entire contest that helped fuel the team to the eventual victory.
He also skated with newcomer Brenden Morrow for the first game, and although Morrow failed to get on the stat sheet, he drove the net hard all game and provided Pittsburgh the net presence they envisioned him doing when they acquired him.
Douglas Murray, the 245-pound Swede acquired a couple days ago from San Jose looked like he fit right in with his teammates in his Pittsburgh debut.
Brought in to provide a more physical presence, Murray did exactly that, roughing up opposing skaters and finishing a gut-wrenching forecheck.
It’s still going to take a little bit for both Morrow and Murray to get comfortable, but not too bad for not being in a Penguins uniform for a full week yet.
Pascal Dupuis scored the other two for Pittsburgh.
Bagging one at 04:12 minute mark of the second period, he would add his other later that period with a 1:23 left. Â On the season, Dupuis now has 26 points (17G, 9A) and is skating to a magnificent plus-23 rating.
Other skaters to record points were Paul Martin, James Neal, Matt Niskanen and Vokoun, who each had one assist.
The feeling around the locker room is that starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury won’t be out for an extended period of time as some might have speculated.
So that’s good news.
Vokoun has played masterfully in his place however, so the team might consider taking it slow with Fleury.
On the season, Fleury is tied with Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom for the league-lead in goalie wins with 18, while holding a 2.24 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.
Regardless of who has been in net, the Pens are rolling.
Bullying their opponent shift-after-shift, Pittsburgh’s going to look awfully scary with the impending arrival of Iginla.
Pens go for 15-in-a-row Saturday against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh at 1 p.m.