The sun was peeking through the blinds at puck drop. NBC’s mikes were picking up every little click and clack. Brian Engblom was misidentifying players. It felt like a playoff game.
And for the most part, the way the Penguins are going to have to win in the playoffs was laid out in this one.
- They are going to have to hit. These last few games, they have upped the hitting.
- They are going to need James Neal to score. Neal’s goal in this one was just his third one in March.
- Marc-Andre Fleury is going to have to outperform whoever he is up against. And in this game, he smoked Corey Crawford.
If the Penguins can get those few things, coupled with the normal bursts from Crosby and Malkin and zero defensive meltdowns, anything can happen. Even with both teams sporting depleted rosters, this game has put an extra bounce in our step.
Hard to believe this is all that’s left:
Four games this week. That bounce in our step could get punctuated or teabagged in Colorado.
Andrew Shaw almost scored less than 2 minutes in. Maatta let up on a loose puck, trying to pull a Red Wings-style interference on Shaw. Only problem was Niskanen didn’t recognize Maatta’s evil plan. Maatta letting up allowed Shaw to swoop around and get a great shot on MAF that hit the pipe, then he landed a Randy Savage elbow on MAF.
The Hawks definitely had the Pens running around early. But then things took a turn.
First, Neal and Seabrook collided, and Seabrook went down. Neal headed up the ice and Jokinen feed him a seeing-eye pass that Neal took in stride. Bennett helped the cause and made it a 2-on-1. Neal gave Bennett a peak, let the Hawks defender go down, and then got it just over the defender and past a stunned Crawford. 1-0.
20 seconds later, Niskanen fed Stemp an all-world pass through the neutral zone. Stempniak took it in, fought off a Hawk, and beat Crawford five-hole. 2-0.
Shit wasn’t getting better for the Hawks. It looked like they forgot how to hockey. Unlimited turnovers, and the Pens were taking advantage with zone time. Pyatt-Sutter-Gibbons had a great cycle that culminated in Pyatt pulling off some dangle.
Engelland went off at the end of the period for a slash, which set the stage for Shaw and Bortuzzo to have a little battle. First Borts gave him the business then cross-checked him the business. Shaw answered by trying to run him at the final horn.
Pens killed the rest of the Engelland penalty. Bortuzzo looked great on the PK.
Patrick Sharp got his stick up into Crosby’s face. Looked like Crosby may have died, but it turned out he was okay. Scary moment on that PP when Kunitz “limped” off the ice, but he would be fine.
Late in that penalty, Hossa jobbed Megna, so the Pens would have another 2 minutes to work with. The Hawks were giving Crosby all the space in the world, and he was making some plays, but nothing was going in.
As soon as the penalty was killed, the Hawks were like Hogan getting up in the corner. Two minutes after the kills, Brookbank shot one from Market Square, and MAF never saw it. 2-1.
Then the Hawks went from zero to jammed real quick when Orpik laid the wood on Toews:
Looking back on it, the second period was pretty good, and it would make for a great third. Interesting that the Hawks didn’t go insane and look for a fight after the Orpik hit. If this happened to Crosby, someone would have brought a gun onto the ice.
Toews was M.I.A. for the third.
Hawks had an early scramble in front of MAF. Marcus Kruger is probably somewhere in your house right now.
And the Hawks didn’t stop coming. They bought homeowner’s insurance for the Pens’ zone. Patrick Sharp was allowed to walk in all alone, but MAF made a huge save.
That was the game right there. What a horrifying sight that was to see Sharp cruising in with his jersey flapping in the breeze like Sakic.
The Hawks were getting to every loose puck, and it felt like the dam was gonna break at any moment. But the Pens caught a huge break with a TV timeout. Huge. Coming out of the break, Stempniak won a puck on the boards and sprung Crosby on a 2-on-1 with Kunitz. Crawford came up big with a couple quick stops.
Hawks threatened a little more, and then Crosby led another 2-on-1, this time with Stempniak. Crosby with the snapshot. 3-1.
Time running down. Crawford pulled for the extra man. Crosby from behind the arc. 4-1.
- Gibbons is settling into his non-first-line role. That third line of Sutter-Pyatt-Gibbons could have the makings of something.
- Solid showing from Maatta and entire blue line in general.
- When you heard Chris Kunitz was limping back to the bench, good God. That would’ve been it.