Observations from the Penguins, 2-1 road win against the Oilers.
-First things first, right winger Pascal Dupuis' tests for blood clot symptoms were negative. He was able to leave the hospital and be at Rexall Place. He even celebrated with his teammates as they came off the ice.
-According to head coach Mike Johnston, Dupuis will skip tomorrow's game in Calgary as a precaution and will be reevaluated in Pittsburgh.
-Defenseman Rob Scuderi stated things well:
"I think you're more concerned than anything. You want to make sure the person is okay. The hockey player is the part we know the most but you want to make sure the guy is okay and that's the most important thing. It was great that we got to get a win tonight but that's more on the life side of things. Not on hockey."
-As far as the game goes, earlier in the day, Oilers coach Todd McLellan lauded the Penguins as a team which "doesn't need five goals to win. It needs [two to three] goals to win."
-Tonight, they only got two goals and pulled out their sixth consecutive win, this time against a very skilled Oilers team. It's strange to say this, especially when backup Jeff Zatkoff was in the pipes, but the Penguins of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are winning with goaltending these days.
-After the teams exchanged power-play chances within the first five minutes, the Penguins got another power-play chance with 5:12 left in the first period. They appeared to cash it in but the NHL's new coaching challenge rule snuffed it out.
-Battling down low for a puck, right winger Patric Hornqvist stole a puck and it eventually found its way onto the stick of right winger Phil Kessel on the left half wall. Kessel moved it to defenseman Kris Letang at center point. Letang surveyed the zone and then sent it to Crosby in the left circle. Crosby whacked a one-timer which goaltender Anders Nilsson initally stopped but he allowed a rebound to squirt loose behind him. It came to a stop in the blue paint where Hornqvist was able to tuck it into the cage.
-As the Penguins and a fair amount of their fans celebrated, the Oilers challenged the goal on the basis of the Penguins being offside as they entered the zone. A replay show Hornqvist a few feet past the Oilers' blue line as Kessel gained the offensive zone. After a few moments, it was announced the goal was nullified.
-After the clock reverted to the moment Hornqvist was offside, the Penguins still had north of a minute of power-play but did little with that remaining time.
-After one period, the game was scoreless but the Penguins had a 15-5 lead in shots.
-The Oilers came out on fire to start the first period and forced the Penguins into a number of turnovers which led to their own scoring chances.
-One of those chances happened all of 45 seconds into the period. After Malkin turned over the puck in the Oilers' zone, left winger Benoit Pouliot pushed play up the right wing and sent a cross ice pass to defenseman Oskar Klefbom. Klefbom motored up the left wing, took the ample space defenseman Ben Lovjeoy gave him and cranked a fairly average slapper by goaltender Jeff Zatkoff on the near side. It was just a bad goal for anyone in a white jersey.
-The Penguins were able to get their first goal from the fourth line at the 9:06 mark. Left winger Sergei Plotnikov won a battle with defenseman Andrej Sekera and Pouliot down low on the Oilers' end boards and was able to get the puck to center Matt Cullen behind the net. Cullen was able to snap off a pass to the slot for right winger Daniel Sprong. Sprong gripped and ripped a wrister by Nilsson's blocker. Plotnikov's effort to win the puck was really something impressive.
-The third period was fairly tame until the Penguins got another power play chance at the 9:30 mark. After Malkin stole a puck on the Oilers' right wall, he moved it to Kessel low on the goal line. Kessel one-touched it with a backhander to left winger David Perron behind him in the right circle. Perron cut across the front of the crease. Nilsson sprawled down low in hopes of preventing a shot and ended up tripping up Perron with his stick. Nilsson ended up with a tripping minor which right winger Nail Yakupov served.
-The Penguins sent out Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Kessel and Hornqvist fo the power play. After Letang kept a puck in the offensive zone at the left point, he moved it to Kessel on the left half wall. Kessel surveyed the zone and snt off a fairly pedestrian wrister through a few bodies in the slot and beat Nilsson's left skate on the far side to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead with 10:15 left in regulation.
-The Oilers made a pretty strong push late in the game in hopes of tying the game. Yakupov hit a post with 5:58 remaining. And after defenseman Ian Cole cleared a puck out of play and took a delay of game penalty, the Oilers were given a power-play with 4:05 left in regulation. The Oilers attempted five shots during this power play and could only get one on net.
-Their last best chance came with 1:55 remaining when center Leon Draisaitl whipped a backhander from the right wing off the far post.
-With 1:26 remaining, Pouliot threw a puck out of the Penguins' left wing corner to the slot into Zatkoff. The Oilers started to celebrate but an official didn't really signal anything and play was halted. A video review failed to show the puck sneaking through his gear.
-After that scare, the Penguins choked the life out of the game and took the win.
-With the exception of the Klefbom goal, Zatkoff was strong and lucky. He was pretty sharp with his rebounds and seemed to absorb just about anything put on net. But he got a lot of help from his posts. He should see if he can buy one of the cages here in Edmonton and use it for future games. Regardless, he was a big part of this win.
-With Dupuis sidelined, Center Eric Fehr took over for him on the top line left wing. He was ... fair. It's hard to say there was immediate chemistry with Crosby and Hornqvist but he looked more than competent. He was strong on the boards and won his fair share of puck battles. Perhaps with a game under his belt on that line, he may look more comfortable tomorrow if the Penguins use that trio again, but he was adequate.
-Let's put it his way. He was no worse than some of left winger Chris Kunitz's clunker games in that role the past two seasons.
-The second line of Perron, Malkin and Kessel continued to look sharp. Even if it didn't create a five-on-five goal, they just had quite a few things going with their passing.
-With Fehr moved to the top line, Plotnikov got into the game and seemed to thrive with Cullen and Sprong. They were able to generate a fair amount of chances in the offensive zone and just meshed.
-The Rob Scuderi-Olli Maatta duo had one really rough shift in the second period but beyond that, they were adequate. Scuderi had a somewhat productive night in that he was able to draw two penalties leading to power plays in the first period.
-In addition to the offsides play which nullified their would-be goal in the first period, Hornqvist and Perron each had additional offsides plays as Kessel tried to carry the puck into the zone later in the game.
-The fact that the Penguins scored another power play goal tonight is nothing insignificant. After so many struggles to start the season, they have power-play goals in four consecutive games. And if you dismiss the coach's challenge from the first period, they basically scored twice on the power play tonight.
-Based on what we saw tonight, it's scary to think what this team could have looked like if Connor McDavid had played. The Oilers just have wave after wave of skill up front. They kept the heat on the Penguins throughout the game.
-He's hardly the most skilled guy on this team, but center Matt Hendricks has a strong game, he was physical. He had a big hit on Maatta which led to a near scoring chance for Edmonton in the third. And he had a nice neutral zone steal against Letang in the third period which Zatkoff snuffed out. Hendricks blocked a lot of shots and just seemed to involved in so many facets of this game.
-Even beyond his goal, Klefbom had a strong game. When the Oilers were out-shot, 15-5, in the first period, he accounted for three of their shots. He just seemed confident anytime he had the puck.
-Nilsson played a sharp game. He was the primary reason the game was tied after the first period.
-Johnston spoke about using Fehr on the left wing and seemed to indicate he was going to use him on the fourth-line left wing prior to Dupuis being hospitalized:
"When I heard [Dupuis] wasn't going be available, Fehr was going to play the left side tonight. He was going to play anyway tonight. Then when [Dupuis] went down, I decided to bump him up on the left side. He's played the left side quite a bit in his career. I just like the way he's been playing lately. He's got his skating legs now. He handles the puck well. A big bodied guy. As we talked about before, some of our lines are going to be rotating wingers."
-Scuderi talked about the significance of having to comeback from a one-goal deficit:
"It was good. I'm not sure how long it's been but it feels like it's been a while since we had a good come-from-behind win. I think it was a testament to the guys just kind of staying with it. I thought we were outplaying them for the majority of the game to that point. We got the goal called back and not that we were going to throw in the towel, but I thought everyone stayed with it and chipped away."
-Scuderi also spoke about the team's success on the penalty kill as of late:
"I think great goaltending. If you're going to have a good penalty kill, you have to have great goaltending. The fact is they have the best players on the ice on the other team against one less of yours and your goalie has to come up big. I think we've done a good job of getting clears and knocking second opportunities on rebounds which is big. But both goalies have made some big saves for us."
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 33-28.
-Klefbom led the game with five shots.
-Crosby and Kessel each led the Penguins with four shots.
-Letang led the game with 26:16 of ice time.
-Klefbom led the Oilers with 24:30 of ice time.
-The Penguins had a 33-30 edge in faceoffs.
-Center Nick Bonino was 12 for 18 (67 percent).
-Oilers center Anton Lander was 6 for 10 (60 percent).
-OIlers defenseman Brandon Davidson led the game with four blocked shots.
-Defensemen Brian Dumoulin, Cole and Scuderi each led the Penguins with three blocked shots.
-This was the Penguins' final regular season game in Rexall Place. They finished with an 11-22-3 all-time record in this barn.
-The Penguins have a streak of 19 successful penalty kills.
-Plotnikov has been penalized in five of his 10 games so far this season.
-Malkin played in his 600th career game.
-Cole played in his 200th career game.
-On a personal note, this was a real treat being here for this game. This building is so unique compared to the other cookie cutters around the NHL. All the strange little nooks and crannies below the stands are fascinating. You could get lost in this building for days and not see day light. We're very grateful for being able to see it firsthand:
-The fans here were very quiet. We're not sure if that has to do with the Oilers being mostly rotten the past decade but this was a very quiet building. They were attentive to the action and they reacted appropiately to positive or negative plays but we expected a more raucous atmosphere.
-There were quite a few Penguins fans on hand. Many of them seemed like they were more fans of Crosby than the team, but anytime the Penguins scored, you knew it.
(Photo: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)