The Penguins got a huge win Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues, one of the best teams in the National Hockey League. Pittsburgh won 4-2 on two goals from forward Blake Comeau, who, along with all other Pens forwards, was playing with a different line. Comeau played with Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz on the second line, and they were clearly the most productive line on the ice for the Penguins. They had great control of the puck throughout the game, and did an excellent job keeping the puck in the offensive zone. That is something the Pens have not done well in recent games.
Comeau’s first goal came off of an offensive zone face-off. Malkin lost the draw, but when the Blues tried to move the puck up the wall, it was blocked by Kunitz and Comeau. Comeau would grab possession, and turn towards the front of the net, where he shuffled the puck through the five-hole of St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott. That gave the Pens the all-important first goal, and after an evenly played first period, the Penguins would not look back.
The second goal scored by Pittsburgh was shelved by Patric Hornqvist, on the power play. It was clearly a drawn-up play coming in.The play started with Kris Letang moving behind the net with the puck, and then using the boards to find Sidney Crosby in the corner. Hornqvist came skating into the slot, and that is where Crosby found him. He one-timed it past Elliott, to give the Pens a 2-0 lead.
Comeau struck again later in the period, but this time a different way then the first time. This score was off of a deflection in front of the net on a slapshot from defenseman Simon Depres. Depres and Rob Scuderi had just entered the ice on a change, with Depres on the left and his defensive partner on the right. Depres, being a right defenseman, signaled Scurderi to switch spots with him. They switched, and immediately Malkin fed Depres, who one-timed it toward the net. Comeau got a stick on it, and the puck knuckled past the goaltender Elliott and into the net.
Blake Comeau also tallied an assist, on the Pens’ fourth and final mark of the contest. The goal was scored by Brandon Sutter, who was demoted down to the fourth line before the game. That decrease in ice-time must have motivated him, because he put a backhand top-shelf on Elliott to give the Penguins a 4-0 advantage. Comeau dropped the puck for Sutter in the slot area, and the center took it and ripped a shot in the top corner. The goal was barely counted as a power-play goal, as it came with one second left on it. Elliott was vulnerable to shots like that because he was clearly deep in his net. Sutter took advantage, and Pittsburgh would hold off a late attempt at a comeback from St. Louis to grab the victory.
The Blues were playing the second of back-to-back games. The first was against the Boston Bruins, who started rookie goalie Malcolm Subban. Subban and a replacement goaltender would allow five goals on 15 shots, and St. Louis came away with an easy win. Saturday, they played their second consecutive game against a backup goalie, but this time without as much success.
Thomas Greiss played easily his best game if the season, shutting out the Blues until a couple of garbage-time goals late in the third period. He made 21 saves, with one standing above the rest. Early in the second-period, Greiss made a Marc-Andre Fleury-like stop, reaching out and saving a Vladimir Tarasenko shot while diving across the crease. Shortly after, the Penguins would score to make it 2-0. Greiss showed in this game that he can be a reliable backup goalie, and that he can perform well.
The Penguins were able to get their power-play back and playing well in St. Louis. They finished 2-3 with the man-advantage, and did a much better job of passing and shooting. The next step is eliminating opponent short-handed opportunities.
This game was very big for Pittsburgh. Coach Mike Johnston’s full-scale line changes helped immensely, and the power-play got back in-sync. They also got some great play from backup goalie Thomas Greiss. This game will give the Penguins confidence that they can make run heading into the most important part of the season.