Several "whens" have been on the minds of Pittsburgh Penguins fans for the last week or so. When would the top power play unit score a goal? When would the Penguins get their first win at the Consol Energy Center? Hell, when would the Penguins win at home, period?
After 1:51 of overtime play on Friday, all three questions were definitively answered when Alex Goligoski, flying down the left wing boards, beat a sprawled-out Rick DiPietro on his near post to push the Penguins by the New York Islanders 3-2.
After a sluggish first period, the Penguins (2-3-0) sprang to life early in the second, taking a 1-0 lead on a scrappy goal. Following up on the rebound from a Paul Martin shot from the point, Mike Rupp collected the puck in front of the net, went wide on DiPietro and backhanded into an unguarded net.
A few minutes later, the Pens scored another scrappy goal with smart, aggressive attacking play, a testament to how the Penguins can look under Dan Bylsma's system when everything goes right:
Deryk Engelland hit Mark Letestu with a hard breakout pass that Letestu managed to chip into the Islanders end. Once Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau collapsed on Letestu, all he needed to do was softly chip the puck behind the net to Eric Tangradi, who had also beaten his marker into the Islanders end. Evgeni Malkin, meanwhile, crashed the net, sucking in the remaining Islanders defensemen.
If you pause the video at 0:26, you see five bodies surrounding DiPietro's net, two Penguins and three Islanders. This not only gave Tangradi plenty of room to circle out from behind the net, but his shot now didn't need to be impressive, it just needed to be near the net. Deflections could, and would, do the rest. Tangradi's goal made it 2-0 and the Penguins looked to be in control.
The contest would take a turn just after the midway point of the period when Kris Letang was sent off for what appeared to the officials to be a dangerous hit to the head of the Islanders Blake Comeau but was actually a perfectly executed, brutal shoulder check.
Rarely does a missed call really influence a game, but it did this time. The Islanders scored once on the power play and once more just after it, both assisted by Comeau, to level the score at 2-2 before heading into the third period.
A back and forth final frame, led to an added period of hockey in which Alex Goligoski fired in the winner, improving the Penguins to 1-for-7 on the power play for the evening and giving the Pittsburgh faithful the win it so desperately craved.
What Went Right:
-Mark Letestu continues to be a revelation. The young center consistently gets good shots on goal and tonight added two assists just by making smart, simple plays that can work within the strengths of Bylsma's system.
-Kris Letang looked to be having his best game of the season before he was ejected in the second period. Letang had already had an assist and laid another heavy hit on an Islander before he put Comeau down with his Scott Stevens-esque shoulder-to-shoulder check.
-I may harp on Alex Goligoski for his decision-making, but it's obvious how skilled he is. His goal, a quick, accurate wrist shot from a tough angle with a player on him, highlighted this. For any misgivings I may have about some aspects of his game, he still leads the team in goals scored and is tied at the top in points and +/- at this early point in the season.
-With the score still tied early in the third period, Brent Johnson stretched to deny Matt Moulson's point-blank shot heading to what looked to be like an open far post. Easily the save of the night and, had that shot gone in, the Penguins could still be winless at home.
What Went Wrong:
* Mike Comrie was back in the lineup tonight, kind of. The ex-Oiler is still stuck on zero points and his ice time quickly seems to be diminishing.
* It looks more and more like Sidney Crosby's hip problem may be severely affecting his game. As was pointed out by the announcing crew tonight, he's relying on his slapshot much more than normal. Couple that with the fact that he seems to have much less of a burst than he usually does, and Crosby may just need some additional rest.
-Jordan Staal begun limited skating this week. He should still be out for another month or so.
-Arron Asham should be back from his shoulder injury by the end of October.
-Brooks Orpik sat out with a groin injury once again and appears to be day-to-day.
-Zbynek Michalek's shoulder injury should keep him out for another two or three weeks.