On one hand, the Vancouver Canucks came into Pittsburgh boasting an impressive 10-4-3 record. On the other hand, the Canucks were finishing up a five-game east coast road trip and looked plenty road-weary as the Pittsburgh Penguins downed them 3-1 in a relatively easy contest.
Vancouver’s power play entered the night second in the league, but tonight it let them down with zero goals for, and basically two goals against. The Pens killed off a Sidney Crosby penalty, and just as it was ending, Crosby sprung from the box and picked up a puck from Maxime Talbot. Crosby broke in all alone on goalie Roberto Luongo, and the Pens captain shot low stick-side and buried it to give the Pens a rare game-opening goal this season.
In the second period the Pens struck again, and again generated offense while a man down. Talbot and Matt Cooke generated a two-on-one but could not score, but Vancouver couldn’t keep the puck in the zone and the two Pens forwards quickly bolted free again. Talbot shot it to the net, collected his rebound, scooted around the back of the net and beat Luongo on a wrap-around shot to make it 2-0 Pens.
Also in the second period, Arron Asham took the puck to the net, Evgeni Malkin crashed towards the cage and Asham was able to poke the loose puck in to make it 3-0 Penguins. On the very next shift, Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis teamed up with super-twins Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin to beat Marc-Andre Fleury and bring the score to 3-1, but that would conclude the scoring on the night.
Some more thoughts from the game:
-Max Talbot, fresh off surgery on both shoulders, only recorded seven points in 45 games last season. Tonight’s two-point effort matches those seven points and in only 20 games. Talbot’s showing more jump and much better effort with the puck this season than last. He’s healthy, and it’s showing.
-Of course, Talbot’s on pace for 29 points, which matches his past output in previous healthy NHL seasons. So it’s not as if he’s lighting up the scoreboard just yet, but it certainly is a welcome sight to see him back to his old self.
-Speaking of paces, Crosby scored his 13th goal of the season tonight, which puts him on track for 53 goals in 2010-11, slightly better than the 51 tallies he notched last season.
-Don’t look now, but Marc-Andre Fleury is 3-0-1 in his last four games and seems to have fully regained his confidence in the net. It’s a terrific turnaround from his early season struggles, and it couldn’t have come soon enough for this Penguins team, which called on its goalie to make 29 of the 30 shots he saw in net tonight for a stellar .967 save percentage.
-Vancouver has been the best team in the faceoff circle so far this season, and that continued tonight as they won 60% of the draws. Other than Crosby winning 55% of his 29 faceoffs, the rest of the Pens only went 10 for 36 (27.7%) on faceoffs tonight, including Evgeni Malkin who lost all eight of his attempts.
-Brooks Orpik put a solid night in at the office: 23:38 played, +1, one shot, six hits, five blocked shots and a takeaway.
Tonight was a good one for the Penguins. They let Monday’s game against the Rangers slip away, but rebounded tonight to be much tighter defensively against what’s thought to be one of the league’s better teams. The homestand continues on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, who are on a bit of a roll themselves by way of a 7-2 win tonight.