The Pittsburgh Penguins showed us all last night, that when they’re on their game, it’s nearly inconceivable to think the oppostion will come out on top.
Shouldered by backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who was making his first start against his former club, Pittsburgh played a complete game, and stonewalled the Los Angeles Kings 4-1.
Getting a goal from forward Evgeni Malkin just 57 seconds into the tilt, James Neal ripped a turn-around wrist shot into Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick, and Jussi Jokinen was able to feed a backhand pass off the rebound, across the goal-crease, to the tall Russian for essentially an empty-netter.
Despite an equalizer from the Kings, courtesy of an Anze Kopitar’ slap-shot, the Pens’ would go on to dominant the rest of the first period.
Scoring a go-ahead goal on the power-play a little over a minute later, Chris Kunitz received a nice tic-tac-toe pass from Sidney Crosby and Jokinen to bury his 27th tally of the season. Then, almost immediately following that goal, Jokinen tickled-the-twine 57 seconds later, after Malkin fed him an outstanding backhand cross-ice pass from the blue-line.
Enjoying a 3-1 lead heading into the second period, Pittsburgh would put-up a four spot on the board, courtesy of Tanner Glass, who blistered a backhand shot from the hashmarks. Although they were unable to score in the third period, Pittsburgh didn’t allow the Kings to get back in it, and controlled the game to its entirety once the puck dropped.
Now, the team still had their usual defensive lapses, so to say it was their best game is debatable; however, recognizing they were playing in a tough atmosphere against a formidable opponent, Pittsburgh displayed their best performance of late.
While the breakdowns in their own zone could have been costly, there weren’t as many, and Zatkoff’ stopped every one of them. Saving 30-of-31 shots, Zatkoff improved his overall record to 9-2-1, and now owns a 2.64 goals-against-average with a .909 save percentage.
Sealing victory over his former team had to feel marvelous – and certainly a confidence booster.
Other notes to pass along, Crosby logged an assist on the night, and now brings his total to 75 points (27G, 48A) on the season. He currently holds an 11 point lead over New York Islanders‘ forward John Tavares, for first in the NHL.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen collected a pair of assists, including one on the power-play, and increased his rating to a plus-30 – which leads the NHL. He now ranks ninth in the NHL for scoring amongst defensemen with 32 points (7G, 25A).
Letang was among last players off ice, but he always is at practice. An illness has been going around club, so… #pens
— Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib) January 31, 2014
When Letang’s in the lineup, the Pens’ record has been 22-10-2, and they have surrendered 82 goals in those games. In the 20 contests he’s been absent, Pittsburgh’s record is 16-4-0, and allowed 46 goals.
That’s in no way suggesting the team plays better when he’s out, because he’s a tremendous talent, but it’s getting hard to ignore.
Pittsburgh will look to extend it’s winning-streak to three when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes, Saturday.
The game can be seen on the ROOT Network, and is set to start at 8 p.m.