Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pens v Thrashers (W 5-0)

What a game. The win over the Ottawa Senators has really put the fire back into the Penguins' game. They've found their rhythm again. It seems like an entirely different team, and that's a good thing.

Coach Michel Therrien has decided to put Marc-Andre Fleury in between the pipes tonight. Let's face it: the ONLY way the kid is going to fix the kinks in his game is to play through them. Obviously the Coach thinks MAF can handle it, despite the shaky night he had in Ottawa. The first period started with a great scoring chance on a give and go between Ryan Malone and Sid, but Ondrej Pavelec blocked the shot, and the Thrashers got control of the rebound. Less than 5 minutes into the period, Kris Letang took a shot from the point. The puck went behind the net where Gary Roberts and Tyler Kennedy worked to gain possession. Roberts threw the puck in to the paint in front of Pavelec, who seemed to be confused. He must have lost sight of the puck, and Jordan Staal finally broke through his sophomore slump and poked the puck over the goal line. The Pens took a 1-0 lead.

Gronk scores!!!

The Pens took the first penalty of the night when Georges Laraque took a holding penalty. The Thrashers did not score on their advantage. Later, the Pens got a power play when a Thrashers player crashed full speed into MAF. I didn't have a chance to make note of who got the penalty because Malone promptly scored a nice goal off a rebound from a shot by Sergei Gonchar. Pens 2, Thrashers 0. Evgeni Malkin got a nice breakaway chance later on, but the puck wandered off his stick. Then, Sid and his road trip roommate Colby Armstrong got a 2 on 1 chance. The Saint fired off a shot that bounced off Pavelec's chest right to the blade of Army's stick. Colby simply chipped the puck into the back of the net. The first ended with the Pens completely dominating the Thrashers for the entire 20 minutes, earning them a 3-0 lead.

The second period was much quieter than the first period. The first real action of the period came when Laraque was agitating Eric Boulton by not letting him pick up his stick after he dropped it. Then, former Penguin Chris Thorburn took a penalty for interference. BIG MISTAKE. The Pens made short work of it when Gonchar got his 3rd assist of the night by making a soft pass to Sid, who blasted it in the goal with a one timer. The Pens took a commanding 4-0 lead.

Sid celebrates his goal with Gonchar.

Later, Rob Scuderi took a penalty for hooking, but the Thrashers did not score on their power play. Less than 2 minutes before the end of the second period, while protecting the puck and keeping his feet moving, Sid drew a penalty on Alexei Zhitnik for hooking. The Pens didn't score but would start the third period ahead by 4 and with a few seconds of power play.

The third period started with a scary moment: Roberts took a puck to the calf from a hard shot by Whitney from the point. He went down like he was shot. He dragged himself to the bench, but was apparently no worse for wear - he returned to the ice less than two minutes later. Then we got another bit of bad news. Gonchar didn't return to the ice due to a sore groin. The move was most likely precautionary, since the Pens had such a commanding lead. A few minutes into the period, Whitney fired another shot from the point. Pavelec saw the puck and made an attempt to block the shot with his arm by clenching it tightly against his body; however, he must not have clenched hard enough because the puck squirted through, landed on the blue paint, and literally trickled over the goal line. The Penguins players all looked shocked that Pavelec didn't scramble to stop the puck from going over. Pens 5, Thrashers 0.

Sid gloves the puck down in front of Pavelec.

Incidentally, Sidney took a stick to his throat off the faceoff that started that play, but it wasn't seen by the refs, and nothing was called. Later, Malone took an interference penalty, but the Thrashers could not score on the power play. Then, Malkin won a faceoff to the right of Pavelec, skated with the puck towards Pavelec, and passed the puck behind his body to Laraque, who chipped it just over the goal. Malone and Crosby had a few close chances but Pavelec was able to stop their shots. With 30 seconds left in the game, the crowd began a chant of "FLEURY, FLEURY, FLEURY!!!!!!!!" I held my breath as the clock ticked down and MAF earned his 9th career shutout (his second of this season).

Now that the game is over, I can tell you that MAF had a STELLAR night. It also helped that the team overall was in sync with one another. He made save after save after save. It was as if MAF was seeing a beach ball in place of the puck. In the post game interview, MAF gave credit to the Pens' d-men. His demeanor was a complete 180 from the last time we saw him just after he got benched in Ottawa. He also said it was easier to relax in front of the net when the forwards are scoring. The Pens now have a 5 day break. They don't face the Dallas Stars until Friday, November 30th!


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