Pittsburgh Thrashes Atlanta 5-0

After finding their confidence in a character win over the league leading Ottawa Senators on Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins put an exclamation point on their rekindled play by shutting out the Atlanta Thrashers 5-0 on Saturday night.  It was the second consecutive shutout for the Atlanta Thrashers, who were 11-5-0 coming into the game after losing the first 6-games of the season.  Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for the Penguins and bounced back to post his second shutout of the season after being pulled in the first period of Thursday’s game against Ottawa.  Despite the Penguins’ scoring melee, Evgeni Malkin’s 15-game point streak came to an end as he failed to notch a point in the game.  On the brite side, however, Jordan Staal finally notched a long overdue goal and played more like the rookie of last year putting 6 shots on goal and was named the 2nd star of the game.

The scoring was initiated at 3:38 of the first period by Jordan Staal as he maneuvered around an Atlanta defenseman in front of the net to poke a rebound past Thrashers rookie netminder Ondrej Pavelec.  The opportunity was created for Staal after Tyler Kennedy threw the puck to the back wall and Gary Roberts picked it up and was rejected on the wraparound attempt.  The goal, assisted by Kennedy and Roberts, was Staal’s 2nd on the season and 1st since October 20th.  The next goal came at 11:53 on the power play from the stick of Ryan Malone, his 3rd goal in 2 games.  Standing in front of the net, Malone collected the rebound from Sergei Gonchar’s point shot and turned to fire it into the open side of the net.  Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang were credited with the assists.  The 3rd goal came at 15:09, as Colby Armstrong and Sidney Crosby rushed the net.  When the passing lane was closed off, Crosby was forced to shoot the puck.  Pavelec stopped Crosby’s attempt, but the rebound found its way to Armstrong who chipped the puck over the shoulder of Pavelec to put the Penguins up 3-0.  Sergei Gonchar and Sidney Crosby were credited with the assists on the goal, Armstrong’s 2nd of the season and 1st since the season’s home opener.  The Penguins outshot the Thrashers 15-10 in the first period and were 1 for 1 on the power play.  The Penguins killed the only penalty against them in the period, a holding call to Georges Laraque at 7:43. 

In the 2nd period, the Penguins picked up another goal on the power play to make it 4-0 as Sidney Crosby put a blistering shot past Pavelec and into the Thrashers’ net at 8:59.  The play was assisted by Sergei Gonchar and Erik Christensen.  It was Sergei Gonchar’s 3rd assist of the night and his 12th point in his last 8 games to further separate him from the rest of the pack as the NHL’s defense scoring leader.  Gonchar was named the 3rd star of the game.  The goal was also Sidney Crosby’s 2nd point of the night, elevating him to 33-points on the season.  Crosby is tied for 2nd in league scoring with Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk who was kept off the score sheet tonight.  Tampa Bay’s Vinny Lecavalier leads the league in scoring with 37-points after picking up 2-more points tonight.  The Penguins were 1 for 1 on the power play in the 2nd period, and successfully killed off their only penalty.  The THrashers outshot the Penguins 9-7 in the 2nd period. 

In the 3rd period, Ryan Whitney scored the lone goal playing at even strength at 5:01.  The play was assisted by Gary Roberts and Tyler Kennedy, who each picked up 2 assists on the night.  The pair of assists were Kennedy’s first career assists.  Sergei Gonchar left the ice in the 3rd period with a sore groin, and didn’t return.  Hopefully it was just a precautionary measure with the game fully in hand.  You certainly could not tell that Gonchar was hurting as his skating and footwork was again impeccable.  The Penguins were 0 for 1 in the 3rd on the power play, and killed off the only call against them as well, making them perfect on the penalty kill for the game.  The Penguins outshot the Thrashers 12-9 in the 3rd.   

Marc-Andre Fleury’s 28 saves assured his 9th career shutout and earned him the 1st star of the game honors.  Fleury was solid, but was not forced to make many spectacular saves.  His best save came on a deflection by Todd White early in the the 3rd period to keep his shutout alive.  The story of the night, however, has to be Jordan Staal and Colby Armstrong both ending their goal scoring droughts.  Their contributions are critical to balancing the team’s scoring to enable them to post more wins on the season.  Unfortunately, Evgeni Malkin’s 15-game scoring streak came to an end.  Malkin had 22-points (7G, 15A) in his last 15-games, the longest scoring steak by a Russian player in NHL history.  Not only was Malkin held scoreless for just the 3rd time this season, he was also held without a shot on goal.  Fortunately for the Penguins, Malkin’s inability to get on the scoresheet was of no consequence to the game’s outcome. 

The Penguins enjoy a rare 5-nights off before they host the Dallas Stars on Friday, November 30th.  Whereas a team normally enjoys a break, the Penguins probably woud prefer to keep the momentum going and keep playing.  Hopefully they will be able to keep their current style of play alive when the return to the ice next Friday. 


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