Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pens v Panthers (W 3-0)

What a game! The Pens have earned their 6th win in a row as Ty Conklin gets his 2nd shutout in four games. The Pens came out swinging in the first period. They completely dominated the Panthers in every way. There weren't many whistles in the first period. Stephen Weiss had the first good scoring chance of the night on a wide open net when the puck rebounded off Conklin's chest, but the puck jumped up and over the blade of his stick. A few minutes later, Tyler "The Tiger" Kennedy and Jordan "Gronk" Staal rushed in a 2-on-1 towards Tomas Vokoun, but the Panthers defensemen prevented Kennedy from centering a pass to Staal. Just then Ryan Malone streaked in from seemingly out of nowhere to beat the Panthers to the puck in the corner. He quickly passed it out to Kennedy, who scored the first goal from one knee. It was the first stoppage in play after the opening faceoff, and it came at the 4:26 mark. Pens 1, Panthers 0. Just under a minute later, Steve Montador got into the kitchen (← as Bob Errey likes to say) of Jarrko Ruutu. Already sporting a cut under his right eye and a wicked shiner on his left eye, Ruutu smartly decided to skate away, which resulted in a penalty to Montador. On the ensuing power play, coming off the rush, Sidney sent the puck to Ryan Whitney, who blasted a shot on goal that Vokoun was able to block but unable to control. The rebound bounced directly to Evgeni Malkin. He easily slapped the puck into the back of the wide open net. This goal came at the 6:17 mark. Pens 2, Panthers 0.

Whitney and Geno celebrate Geno's goal.

After the TV timeout, we learned that Geno, whose hat trick from Thursday night's game was his first in his NHL career, only had one hat trick in his Russian career. Throughout this entire game, the Pens' top line of Sid, Geno, and Colby Armstrong played some of the best hockey I've seen all season. They are really working well together. When play resumed, Sid and Geno worked to set up Army, but Vokoun came way out to challenge him. A few minutes later, Sid, Army, and Sergei Gonchar came off the rush towards the goal. Army controlled the puck and then passed it to Gonch, who took a hard slapshot at close range that rang loudly of the goal post. The Panthers regained possession, and Montador took a shot, but it was deflected wide of the goal. The Panthers got another penalty when Weiss was called for hooking Sidney. The Pens just didn't score on the power play. The referees seemed to keep getting in the way today, most notably when Staal was going for the puck in the Panthers' zone but was slowed down when he tried to avoid running over a linesman. By missing the ref, he also missed the puck and icing was called against the Pens.

Olli Jokinen defends the goal against The Kid.

The Pens got their only penalty of the night when Adam Hall was called for holding. The Panthers did not score on their power play. As the penalty ended, Ruutu bent down low to poke the puck out of the Penguins' zone. As he was down, a Panther (I didn't see who) lifted his stick and connected with Ruutu's mouth. Errey took exception to the fact that it was not called as a high sticking penalty simply because the Panthers player's stick was only 2 feet off the ice. He made a good point when he stated that it shouldn't matter because the player was not in control of his stick and additionally should not have been trying to use his stick to back check Ruutu when he was down that low. With 1 minute left in the period, Sidney passed the puck from behind the cage out to Geno for a quick shot on goal. The rebound when to Army, but he couldn't switch the angle of his shot for the open net in front of him, instead his shot went right to Vokoun on the other side of the goal. With only 18.4 seconds left in the period, Jay Bouwmeester was called for slashing. The Pens didn't score on this short power play, and the period ended with the Pens ahead by 2 goals.

The second period started with more than 1:40 left in the penalty to Bouwmeester. The Pens did not score on the remainder of this power play. The Pens seemed kind of sluggish in the second period. Their intensity really waned. Staal and Kennedy tried to get something going in front of Vokoun but were denied. Then Jeff Taffe came off the bench, got the puck, and went 2-on-1 with Malkin, but Vokoun was able to make the save. Just a few minutes later, Conklin really earned his stripes when Brett McLean got a shot on goal with no Penguins defenseman in sight. Conklin blocked the shot but fell down in the process. The rebound took a fortuitous bounce out to Anthony Stewart, who inexplicably took a shot down low as Conklin was lying on his back. Conklin stuck his glove hand up a few inches and stopped the shot. It was a pretty incredible save, but on the replay we saw that the net was off its moorings, so the goal wouldn't have counted anyways. But it was moot point because Conklin smartly didn't let it even come to that.

McLean's shot is blocked as he knocks Conks on his butt.

Rob Scuderi and Staal later worked together to prevent the Panthers from capitalizing on a 3-on-2 chance. The Panthers returned the favor when Vokoun stopped Sid's shot following a 3-on-2 he had with Army and Geno. Kris Letang got rocked into the boards by Radek Dvorak but was able to keep going and break up a Panthers' scoring chance. Then Ruutu got the puck and streaked towards Vokoun. He dropped it off for Erik Christensen to make the shot, but Crusher was hauled down and crashed into Vokoun. Nothing was called, and Crusher was slow to get up. Then Malone again came in from out of nowhere to fire off a shot. The rebound went right to Kennedy, but Bouwmeester used his body to block the shot. The second period ended with the same score as the first period.

We learned during the intermission that Team Canada beat Team Sweden in overtime in the World Juniors to win the Gold, while Team USA was beaten for the Bronze by Team Russia. Congrats to our Neighbors to the North!!! :)

Conks and Scudsi work together to prevent Booth from scoring.

The third period started with the Panthers having some good rushes, but Conklin was clearly in the zone. In fact, when Conklin went to the bench during a TV timeout in this period to ask for some water, not one of the players would talk to him, touch his pads, or even look at him so as not to jinx him. (I love it that hockey players are so superstitious!) The Pens had plenty of scoring chances: Malone had a breakaway chance in which he had to maneuver around one of the refs, but Vokoun stopped his shot. Petr Sykora centered a pass for Crusher, but he couldn't get a stick on the puck. Staal muscled past the Panthers' defensemen - Gronk even knocked Bryan Allen's stick out of his hands in the process - but Vokoun made the save on Staal's shot. The Saint, Geno, and Army had another insane shift where they did everything but score. And then there was a really bad call against the Panthers: Vokoun came out at least 10 feet from the goal to play the puck. He looked up and saw Ruutu bearing down on him, so he froze the puck. He was promptly called for delay of game. It was an awful call, but it didn't matter because the Pens didn't score on the power play.

A little while after the penalty ended, Army got away with a blatant hook, and Conklin made another great save as he battled through traffic to cover up a loose puck at the side of the cage. Later, we could loudly and clearly hear Conklin shouting "BEHIND, BEHIND, BEHIND!!!" to Darryl Sydor as a Panthers player was bearing down on him. Then David Booth stole the puck and fired a shot at Conks, who made the stick save as the puck hit the skinny shaft of his stick. With 2:39 left in the game, Army got a breakaway chance. He fooled Vokoun with a deke but just as he went to make the forehand shot, the puck rolled off his stick.

Army just can't get past Vokoun.

Sir Sidney was there to regain possession of the puck. He passed the puck to Geno, who attracted the Panthers defensemen. Geno quickly passed the puck back to Sid, who blasted the puck past Vokoun to earn his 17th goal of the season. Pens 3, Panthers 0.

Geno and Sid celebrate Sid's goal.

With 53.6 seconds remaining, Ruslan Salei hauled Geno down on a breakaway chance. I thought Malkin would have gotten a penalty shot, but instead Salei was given a penalty for holding. The Pens didn't score on the shortened power play chance. The clock ticked down, and the Pens won the game. The Pens travel to Florida to face the Panthers again on Tuesday at 7:30pm Eastern.


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