Atlantic Division back to back; Recap of one and Preview of the next.
In the Keystone State there is no rivalry other than that of Pens vs. Flyers. Last night was another chapter in what has become one of the NHL’s best rivalries to watch. Last night's game was big for the Penguins as they try to greater the gap on the Tampa Bay Lightning. On the Flyers side of things, Philly is looking to gain more ground on the Capitals. In what was sure to be a tough fought game, Pittsburgh once again came ready to play.
The first period saw the flyers storm out of the gate creating multiple chances. The Flyers were pressing hard for the first five minutes. The Penguins then started to tilt the ice. Their fast checking game was starting to get to the Flyers until a rather fortunate bounce gave the Flyers a one goal lead. Richards drove to the net and deflected a JVR shot of his skate. Upon review it was hit by a stick before it went in, good goal. The period ended with the Penguins on the Power Play after a goaltender interference call.
The Penguins quickly scored in the second period when Kunitz dished a pass across the middle to Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy ripped one into the back of the net with Bob challenging out of the crease. The remainder of the second period saw the Penguins kill penalties and pressure the Flyers. The Penguins outworked the Flyers in many different areas. They dictated play and outshot the flyers by 31 to 20. In the third period it took the Flyers over 12 minutes to get a shot on net and they didn’t get a single shot on net in the overtime. The shootout saw great moves by Alex Kovalev, Danny Briere, and finally Chris Kunitz with the winner. It was a hard fought game and much needed win for the Pens.
The Standouts – Bobrovsky was the first of the night, he made 30 of 31 saves and most of them were jaw dropping. He robbed Alex Kovalev twice and had three pucks kiss the pipes. The Standout for Pittsburgh was James Neal. Although Neal has not scored as much as the penguins expected, he has become a force on the ice. His physical play and strong backcheck have proved to helpful in tight games.
The Penguins played fantastic and they have to bring that same attitude into tonight’s game against the Devils. It’s all but over for the Devils playoffs chances, but they still continue to play strong. The Penguins have to play a similar game tonight, but with a few changes.
Injuries - Last night the up and coming center Dustin Jeffrey was injured. The severity is not known at this point which leaves everyone to wonder who will play tonight. While Letestu is a possibility, if he is not ready Mike Comrie has said that he is. Either way the Penguins need someone to step in and play strong.
Special Teams - The penguins finally scored on the powerplay against Philly and if they want to win again tonight, they need to score once more. The Penalty Kill is still the best in the league and last night they almost once again scored shorthanded (second in the league in SHG’s). Against New Jersey the Penguins must be on their game in the penalty kill with the suddenly hot Kovalchuk roaming the point.
Goaltending – The Penguins might have to have Marc –Andre play once again tonight with the injury to Brent Johnson. Although Theissen of the AHL affiliate Baby Pens has had an amazing season, the Pens might just have to go with Fleury in order to keep pace with Washington and Philly.
Defense – This is the least of the Penguins worries right now. Brooks Orpik might be back tonight, but either way the Pens top 5 defense is holding them close in games. With great play from Fleury and strong puck movement, the Penguins should once again come out with at least one point.
Offense – The Tough one on the list, the Penguins must put up more than two goals tonight if they want to secure a victory. With the powerplay slowly dying every game, the offense has to come from strong 5 on 5 play. The Penguins need Kovalev and Neal to play top notch tonight and put a puck in the net. These two have been playing stronger in the Penguins system, but just cannot seem to score.
Another big game for the Pens tonight, keep up the winning.