First things first, the Penguins acquired defenseman Justin Schultz from the Oilers after the game. Click here for our thoughts on that.
Second, goaltender Matt Murray was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Third, left winger Conor Sheary was injured in the second period when he was crunched into the Jets end boards by defenseman Tyler Myers. He appeared to be struggling with an arm or shoulder. He took one more shift after the hit then retreated to the dressing room.
As far as the game goes, the Penguins just beat a bad and wounded team. They took advantage of their superior skill and picked apart a loose defense. If not for the exploits of Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson, this could have been much more lopsided.
The Penguins got some contributions from returning centers Nick Bonino and Evgeni Malkin and took an easy two points out of this game.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins darted out to a quick 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the second period. Right winger Patric Hornqvist lugged a puck up the right wing wall on a somewhat methodical four-on-three rush into the Jets' zone. He fed a fairly simple pass to Letang trailing in the right circle. Letang popped a one-timer by the glove hand of Hutchinson on the far side. Hornqvist and left winger Chris Kunitz had assists.
They doubled the lead 23 seconds later. Corraling a puck at the left point, defenseman Derrick Pouliot fed a pass to defenseman Ian Cole at the right point. Cole whacked a one-timer which left winger Carl Hagelin deflected by Hutchinson's glove hand with his stick. Cole and Pouliot had assists.
The Jets finally got on the scoreboard at the 8:48 mark of the second period. After Malkin was penalized for tripping Jets defenseman Adam Pardy behind Winnipeg's net, the Jets had a power play. Ehlers fed a pass to defenseman Dustin Byfuglien at the right point. Byfuglien lifted a pedestrian wrister at the cage. Right winger Blake Wheeler was positioned to the right of the crease behind defenseman Olli Maatta, reached up with his 6-foot-5 frame and deflected a puck downwards past Fleury's glove hand. Byfuglien and Ehlers netted assists.
The Penguins made it a 3-1 game at the 5:19 mark of the third period. After forcing a turnover in the Jets' left corner, Bonino fed a pass to Pouliot at the right point. Pouliot flung a wrister towards the cage. Left winger Scott Wilson was positioned in the crease battling with Pardy and deflected the puck behind Hutchinson's glove hand. Pouliot and Bonino had assists.
They added an insurance goal at 10:02 of the third period. Corralling a puck in the left corner, right winger Phil Kessel took advantage of a slight pick by Malkin on Byfuglien in the corner and fed a pass from the left circle to Hagelin positioned to the right of the cage. Hagelin leaned down and snapped in an easy goal by Hutchinson's left slate. Kessel and Cole had assists.
-Hagelin seemed to benefit a good deal from Malkin's return. While Malkin didn't have a direct hand in either of Hagelin's goals, that line along with Kessel just looked much more comfortable with Malkin at center instead of Matt Cullen. No offense to Cullen who has exceeded most expectations of him, but he's not Evgeni Malkin.
-Malkin had 15:53 of ice time on 24 shifts and recorded three shots.
-The team's bottom defensive pairing came through big and in a timely manner given the addition of Schultz. Pouliot and Cole have really seemed to create a little bit of chemistry in the three games they've played together. We're not sure if there's enough of a body of work between Cole and Pouliot to keep Schultz out of he lineup but they have looked comfortable with one another.
-Bonino looked solid. He was fairly quiet until he made the steal setting up Wilson's goal. But he didn't show any issues as related to his hand injury. He logged 12:59 of ice time on 16 shifts, including 1:03 on the power play and 1:00 on the penalty kill. He had two shots as well.
-Just another game with another goal for Wilson. Today, he scored off a nifty deflection goal while gaining body position on a big defenseman in Pardy (6-foot-4, 220 pounds).
-Sheary's injury looked like a simple matter of a 5-foot-8 178-pound player being hit by a 6-foot-8 229-pound player in Myers. It was a pretty clean play all around.
-The hit in question:
-The Penguins had one power play today and did not look remarkable whatsoever in executing it. Any expected improvement with Malkin's return was not evident. Furthermore, it looked like Malkin was used on the left wall/point while center Sidney Crosby was on the right wall. Kessel operated a little closer to the left side of the net than he normally does.
-Fleury was outstanding. He had a sequence of saves early in the third period which kept it a 2-1 game. A few shifts later, the Penguins took a 3-1 lead. He came through with some very timely saves throughout this contest.
-This looked like a team which just traded its captain [Andrew Ladd] and lost its No. 2 center [Bryan Little] for the rest of the season. The Jets gave an honest effort but just didn't have the ability to match the Penguins' skill.
-As mentioned earlier, Hutchinson was the main reason this game was ever in doubt. He flat-out stole goals with some highlight reel saves. None were better than this bit of robbery against Crosby:
Head coach Mike Sullivan lauded the bottom defensive pairing of Pouliot and Cole:
“I thought they simplified their game. They were taking what the game gave them when they had opportunities to get involved in the offense, they did. When it was time to defend, they stayed behind the rush or they stayed behind the attack. I thought they had good sticks in our defensive zone. But I the think that jumped out at me the most is I thought they made really good decisions as far as their first pass helping us getting out of our end zone."
-Pouliot talked about playing with Cole for three games:
"I think we're just building a little more chemistry. We're being more comfortable with each other. We were shooting tonight trying to get the puck on net for the forwards and it worked well for us."
-Cole was excited to get two assistsbut had other things in focus:
"Any time you get points, that's good. It's not a bad thing. But I think there's a lot more to the game than just getting points. There's a lot of times where you throw two pucks on net and they just happen to go into the net. You have two goals and everybody's like, 'Oh my God he had a great game,' and you could have a terrible game the rest of the game. And vice versa you have a great game and not score for 20 games or 30 games. And everyone's like, 'What's happening?' … You start to play well and stuff starts to happen for you. Obviously, it's nice to get points but I think we're more concerned about playing well, playing hard."
-Pouliot explained the play leading to Wilson's goal:
“I'm trying to put it around a certain height so maybe he can touch it or if it gets to the net, there's a rebound.”
-Pouliot said there are instances of chemistry between forwards and defensemen who played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
"A little bit. For me and [Wilson] I think it's more on the power play. When he was on my flank there, we'd have that one-timer shot. He told me float a wrister through to the net and he's going to be here. I tried to do that and he tipped it."
-Wilson talked about that chemistry:
"Me and him have had a lot of power-play time down there and being on the ice together, I kind of know his tendencies so I think just like all the [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton] guys, I kind of know what they're thinking and I think that's helped a great deal."
-Sullivan liked what he saw in the returns of Bonino and Malkin:
"I thought they were both really good. We used them in different capacities but you can see the impact that they had on the game. [Malkin] I thought was really strong. I think his conditioning will only get better as he gets his timing back and gets back into game mode. But I thought he made some real nice plays. I think his line is a different line when he is there. He's that kind of a player. [Bonino], we used him on the penalty kill. He played on that second power-play unit. I thought he was solid on both ends of the rink. He had a couple of scoring chances he was involved with."
-Pouliot talked about Malkin's return:
"He's such a presence. His skill is unbelievable and he's one of the best players in his league. He really helps our lineup. He's dangerous offensively and he's playing pretty good defensively too. He's a real threat out there and teams have to honor that with the four lines we have."
Sullivan really liked what he saw from the second line with Malkin, Kessel and Hagelin:
"They're a threat every time they're on the ice, both off the rush and in the offensive zone. I think when those three guys play together, obviously, their speed is evident. All three of them are skaters and they like to play a speed game and I think that's why they're so dangerous off the rush."
-Hagelin liked how his team responded coming off a bad loss:
"We weren't happy with how we played in Boston [Wednesday] especially giving up five goals to a team we wanted to beat. But I think we responded well today. Didn't have a great first [period] but then after that, we took over and dominated the last two periods."
Sullivan said Fleury was big:
"He certainly made some timely saves tonight. He's made timely saves for a while for us that's helped us to get some of the wins we've enjoyed the last little while. I thought Marc was really good tonight. There was some momentum swings. Winnipeg had momentum at times and we needed the save, we got it. I thought Marc was really solid in goal. It's hard to win in this league when you don't get that and that's what he provides for us. I think our team has a lot of faith in him. I think they believe in him and I think he has a calming influence when he's rock solid in there."
-The Penguins controlled shots, 33-28.
-Hagelin led the game with six shots.
-Byfuglien and defenseman Ben Chiarot led the Jets with four shots each.
-Byfuglien led the game with 25:54 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 25:19 of ice time.
-Penguins had a 31-23 lead in faceoffs (57 percent).
-Cullen was 13 for 16 (81 percent).
-Jets center Andrew Copp was 5 for 7 (71 percent).
Cole and Jets center Mark Schiefele led the game with three blocked shots each.
-The Penguins increased their franchise record for longest home-winning streak against an individual franchise to 15 games against the Jets/Thrashers. The last time the Penguins lost at home to this franchise was a 4-2 defeat to the Thrashers at the Mellon Arena, Dec. 27, 2006. That was so long ago, right winger Marian Hossa was in the lineup ... for the Thrashers.
-The Penguins are 24-3-1 all-time at home against this franchise.
-Cole recorded a point for the first time since Dec. 6.
-Wilson has four goals in his past five games.
-Center Marko Dano made his Jets debut.
(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)