What a difference a game makes.
Two nights after Marc-Andre Fleury was yanked after allowing two arguably soft goals in the first period in Ottawa, Penguins coach Michel Therrien came right back with Fleury back at home tonight vs. the Atlanta Thrashers. Fleury did not repeat his poor performance tonight, in fact he made 28 saves in a 5-0 Penguins shutout. The defense helped out Fleury well tonight, as the Thrashers didn't really have very many good scoring opportunities at all.
After two consecutive wins, the Pens are now only two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Unfortuately, you'd like to see them continue on with their next game in the next night or two, but they now have to wait until Friday night back in the Igloo vs. the Dallas Stars.
Four of the five Pens goals were of the ugly variety, which I'm sure is just fine with them. Those ugly goals were the ones that were absolutely alluding them in the first quarter of the season. If those goals start going in reguarly, it really makes this team much more difficult to beat. To be honest, the Atlanta defense looked to be a step slow tonight, possibly due to their back-to-back games.
Jordan Staal got a big monkey off of his back tonight. Not only did he score his second goal of the year, but it was clear that he was much more comfortable in handling the puck, making several impressive moves to create scoring chances.
Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor were once again healthy scratches. There's been much speculation about the future of those two, especially with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who've had scouts at the Pens' recent games. Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock has ties to both Recchi and Sydor.
Tonight's game was a wide open affair, with only six penalties called all night between both teams. The Pens connected on two of their three opportunities, while the Thrashers were 0 for 3.
With all of the scoring tonight, it's pretty surprising that Evgeni Malkin's 15 game point streak came to an end. As Paul Steigerwald pointed out tonight, Malkin's streak is now the longest streak for any Russian-born hockey player ever.
Staal started the scoring about three and a half minutes into the game as he tapped in a shot that was redirected towards the net by Gary Roberts.
The Pens made it 2-0 on their first powerplay of the game when Ryan Malone banged home a rebound off of a Sergei Gonchar slapshot from the point.
They increased their lead to 3-0 when Colby Armstrong chipped in a Sidney Crosby centering pass on a 2 on 1 break.
It was 4-0 Pittsburgh about midway through the second period when Crosby scored on the powerplay again on a slapshot from the right point.
The scoring closed out five minutes into the third period when Ryan Whitney slapshot from the point trickled through the pads of Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec and slowly crossed the goalline.
It was a complete and balanced effort tonight by the Pens. All four lines contributed well, and you can see how their confidence is building after two wins.
As I said, the Pens are now off until Friday when they host Dallas.
The Confluence of the Three Rivers