Penguins Win Shootout, Take Atlantic Lead

The Pittsburgh Penguins jumped out to an early lead but ultimately needed a shootout to beat the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday afternoon, 3-2.  Marc-Andre Fleury, playing in his first full start since returning from his high ankle sprain injury, turned aside all three shots in the shootout to capture the win.  Kris Letang scored the lone shootout goal for the Penguins.  The win puts the Penguins solely in the lead of the Atlantic Division, and in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference behind Montreal.  Montreal and Pittsburgh both have 81-points, but Montreal has a game in hand against the Penguins.   

In the 1st period, it looked like the Penguins were going to walk away with the game quite quickly, as they scored 2-goals in the first 2:09 of the game.  The first goal came just 50 seconds into the game as Ryan Malone dug the puck out of the pads of a floundering Kari Lehtonen and backhanded it into the open net.  The goal was Malone’s 23rd of the season, and marks a career high.  Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin picked up the assists on the goal.  Then, at 2:09, Max Talbot made a nifty move to skate around a Thrashers’ defensemen and then backhanded the puck past Lehtonen for his 9th of the year.  Jarkko Ruutu and Alex Goligoski were credited with the assists on the play.  At 14:29, the Thrashers got back in the game when Jim Slater beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a slap shot.  Eric Boulton and Joel Kwiatkowski were given assists on the play.  The Penguins outshot the Thrashers 10-8 in the first, were 0-for-1 on the power play and killed off 2-penalties of their own. 

There was no scoring in the second as the Thrashers outshot the Penguins 13-11.  The Penguins were 0-for-1 on the power play and successfully killed off 3-penalties. 

In the 3rd, the Thrashers scored early on a carryover penalty to Evgeni Malkin (interference).  Vyacheslav Kozlov scored on the wrister to tie the game 2-2, with assists by Colby Armstrong and Joel Kwiatkowski.  The Penguins outshot the Thrashers 10-9, and were 0-for-1 on the power play.  The score remained tied through the end of regulation, and again through 5-minutes of sudden death overtime with 3-shots being registered per side.  In the shootout, the Penguins put up Petr Sykora, Kris Letang and Jarkko Ruutu.  Sykora nd Ruutu missed, but Letang used his signature move (the “Donkey Kick”) to beat Lehtonen.  The Thrashers put up Erik Christensen, Eric Perrin and Ilya Kovalchuk, none of whom were able to beat Fleury. 

In other news, FSN Pittsburgh showed Sidney Crosby and Gary Roberts both practicing with the team today and looking good.  It was mentioned that Roberts also suffered a high ankle sprain along with the fracture.  No timetable was given for their return, but you just get the feeling that Crosby will be back soon.  There is speculation that he will make the road trip this week with the Penguins and may play next weekend. 

The Penguins hit the road to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night and the Florida Panthers on Thursday night before traveling to Washington, DC, on Sunday to take on the Capitals.   

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