Almost 1/4 into the 2007-08 season, the Penguins could have been in a tie for last place in the East Conference had they lost tonight and Buffalo and Washington won. Inconceivable. But, as fate would have it, Pittsburgh won their first 1 goal game since Tuesday October 23 and both Buffalo and Washington lost one goal games and the Pens stave off last place.
Tonight's game news:
``Sidney Crosby had the only assist on the game winning goal from a surprising source, Georges Laraque.
``Evgeni Malkin had two assists, taking him to the top in the league for that category. Malkin strung his current points game streak to 12 games which is amazing. But still Malkin flies under the radar when El Sid is working on a 18 game and counting streak
``Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney combined for over 50 minutes of icetime, 7 shots on net and 1 goal and 1 assist (all the points coming from Gonchar). Just knowing that, you obviously would think the Pens had a lot of powerplay chances and they did (7).
``Marc-Andre Fleury earned a much needed victory; surrendering only two goals and stopping almost 93% of the shots (26 of 28) that came his way.
``Petr Sykora attempted 9 shots. Of course only 3 of them made it to the net (and one of them beat Rick DiPietro). Sykora missed the net on 2 of his attempts and 4 more were blocked. But a least he's firing the puck. That's a good sign.
``Nitpicking, but Erik Christensen (5-2) was the only Pen that had a good night in the faceoff circle. Crosby, uncharacteristically of this year, only won 38% of his draws and Malkin only won 43%.
``The powerplay did convert one goal, but had 7 chances. A win is a win but the Penguins need to capitalize on their opportunities a little more if they expect to win night in and night out.
``Jordan Staal's lack of production continues, as he played 16:58 and managed only 1 shot on net. Staal only got 2 seconds of powerplay time.
``After publically sticking by vets like Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi, Coach Therrien made Recchi a healthy scratch and limited Roberts to 10 minutes of icetime at even strength. Is their pressure or micro-management coming from the front office? Perhaps, but Therrien's no pushover. It's just as likely that he's going to publically be very loyal and very supportive to his proven vets. But then obviously due to Therrien's analysis of their performance has to make adjustments tp his lineup accordingly to give the team the best chance for victory.
And he did, credit to him for that.
``Also it's no surprise given the performance, but it was nice to see Rob Scuderi wasn't taken out of the lineup and Darryl Sydor was. Scuderi has done nothing to hurt the team and has played his role superbly. Sydor, to this point, has not.
Much, much, much needed win. At the end of the day you need to beat a division opponent when you're at home and have more talent on the roster than them. The Penguins walk away with 2 more points in the standings, but perhaps more importantly Fleury's confidence has to be improved and team morale got a boost from a coach that made the right calls in who to play, and who not to play.
It remains to be seen if the team can build upon this when the Rangers come to Pittsburgh in less than 48 hours, but it's a start. The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, and the Pens took one tonight.