Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist were back in the lineup for a game that was important for two reasons: One was that the Pens had been playing horribly (losing to terrible Carolina on Thursday), and they needed a victory. They got it against another lowly team, the Arizona Coyotes.
Despite not scoring until 7:16 of the third period, when Daniel Winnik scored, the Penguins scored three times in the final period to defeat Arizona, who lost to the Penguins 3-1 on March 21. The Coyotes’ Tye McGinn scored three minutes before Winnik’s goal to give them the early lead.
Two more power-play goals by Pittsburgh sealed the game. First, it was NHL penalty-minutes leader Steve Downie scoring with assists from Sidney Crosby and Malkin, who earned his first point since coming back from his injury. Crosby made it a two goal-game with his third point of the afternoon, getting helpers from Derrick Pouliot and Evgeni Malkin.
Tobias Rieder cut the lead to one with less than two minutes remaining, but the Coyotes failed to capitalize on the momentum, not scoring despite multiple chances on Penguins’ goaltender Tomas Greiss, who was backing up Marc-Andre Fleury.
The game should help Pittsburgh figure out the problem that has been troubling them: They have failed to consistently score goals. Although they would have liked to have scored earlier in the game, the three goals were enough to get the win. They showed that they could score crucial goals, and that will be very important come playoffs.
The second reason why the game was important was a bit more personal reason: Coach Mike Johnston’s mother passed away the day before the game. She died at age 81 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on Friday. Johnston was on the bench for the Coyotes game and will be there for their second home game of the weekend against the Sharks. He will attend the funeral on Tuesday and will coach the Penguins in their game on Wednesday.
Coach Johnston won it for his mom, Sheila Johnston.
Fleury will be back in net on Sunday when the Penguins host the Sharks. The Coyotes host the Sabres on Monday.