When it is all said and done, what in the world will we say about the James Neal and Evgeni Malkin duo? There were some possible lowlights in this game, but, holy crap, were Neal and Malkin and their henchman, Jussi Jokinen, good. The line combined for 8 points and helped the Pens win an old-fashioned shootout at CEC. The Formula strikes again.
A Couple of overlaying factors to this game
– For some reason. Winnipeg coming to Pittsburgh equals high-scoring games. The last four in Pittsburgh:
– Yeah, actually not that many overlaying factors. Winnipeg is terrible.
It took 30 seconds for Kris Letang to make his mark on the game, when he did some bizarre pinch which led to Kane getting a great chance. MAF made a big stop, but the Jets still had the momentum. Jacob Trouba got one past MAF to make it 1-0.
Malkin was taking some big licks early. The Jets’ gameplan was to deploy Big Buff and Mark Stuart against Malkin's line and hope the two D-men didn't play like their usual shitty selves. That did not work out for Claude Noel.
Pens got the first PP. Jets didn’t give them any space. Stuff looked out of sorts. The Jets killed it. Jets got their first PP when Adams was a dick to Olli Jokinen. Really bad penalty by Craig Adams.
Crosby Penalty shot
Malkin fed Crosby on a great pass behind the defense. Crosby got hooked, got a penalty shot.
Crosby couldn't finish. At least when Jets goalie Al Montoya is bagging groceries next year, he can tell the customers that he stopped Sidney Crosby on a penalty shot.
It was 4-on-4 after that because Big Buff kept knocking Malkin around, and Orpik didn’t like it. Engelland stepped in, so he and Buff went off.
Mark Scheifele, the 2011 first-round pick for the Jets, scored late in the first. Stomach-punching goal it felt like.
Scheifele was really good in the first. Looked like the Pens wanted to get into the locker room a couple seconds early. 2-0.
Paul Steigerwald was aghast that the Jets dared to come into CONSOL and not let the Penguins win, but that’s the NHL for you.
Pens got under Buff’s skin when Malkin sniped Montoya after a Buff turnover. 2-1.
Malkin was still on the prowl. He fed Jokinen with a great pass behind the defense. Jokinen couldn’t corral it, but the Pens eventually got a PP.
The best part of flirting with disaster like Letang does? Sometimes the flirting pays off and you get to plow her. He dangled up at the blue line, freed up some space, then fed Neal. Neal zeroed in on Montoya then filthied one in.
Is James Neal too good? Seriously. The Penguins undid the Jets' first period in four minutes.
And they weren't done. 2 seconds later, Neal’s innocent shot from the boards hit Bogosian’s stick and got past Montoya. 3-2.
The one thing ROOT Sports did right was focus on Big Buff after the Pens scored.
The party had started. But wait. The Jets were still in the building. Blake Wheeler picked up a loose puck and rifled one past MAF. 3-3. Bylsma probably had to do everything in his power not to pump his fist.
The Penguins jumped back out in the lead after another lucky bounce got the puck past Montoya. Jokinen got credit for it. 4-3.
Malkin was everywhere. Everywhere, including the penalty box. Pens killed it off.
Late in the period, the Pens were cycling. Orpik tried a dipsy-doodle at the blue line and pretty much imploded. Evander Kane picked it up and was freaking gone. Scuderi had no chance. Kane went in and popped a backhander past MAF. Not Brooks Orpik's best day.
Then the Jets scored again. 5-4. Kane again. Yikes.
Nothing made sense anymore.
The Pens were down a goal. Nothing else mattered. The Pens were coming in waves, so it was only a matter of time. Didn’t expect Big Buff to give the Pens the tying goal on a platter, but he did. He threw it right to Neal on a clearing attempt. Neal grabbed it and fired it on net. Rebound landed in the crease, and Malkin was there to whack it home. 5-5.
A Winnipeg fan killed himself after this goal by just simply standing outside.
The game crept to under 10 minutes, and it was Thunderdome. Niskanen put one in off a faceoff to put the Pens in front 6-5.
Great shot by Niskanen, but come on, Al Montoya. Get real. Bonus points to Chris Kunitz, who hustled for a puck after Crosby lost the faceoff and somehow got it to the point.
Oh, and lol
It was crunch time, and it was time for MAF to step up. He stopped Andrew Ladd while Ladd was in his throat:
Errey has been rubbing on Malkin's stick for good luck. It's been working. The bad news: Eastern Conference Finals are nationally televised.
Mistake almost costs Pens
With the Jets in desperation mode, they pulled Montoya. The Penguins put Jokinen-Malkin-Neal out because Malkin and Neal were both on the cusp of a HT. And then they stayed out…and stayed out…and stayed out.
Look at the on-ice report (right column):
Pens’ coaching staff was blinded by the visions of hats. Luckily, the Jets’ last gasp hit the post behind MAF.
– Letang close to 25 minutes in his first game back.
– The Pens' bottom two lines are borderline unwatchable. No creativity. Pens are winning, so you can't really complain about the personnel yet. It's just not entertaining at all.
– Paul Martin is lurking.
– Sick kick pass by Olli Maatta somewhere.
– Lylon Gibbons or whatever his name is played well with Crosby and Kunitz.
– Pics: AP/Getty