The Pittsburgh Penguins (7-2-1) came into Wednesday night’s game off their first road win of the season and, after a few days off, played guest to the Anaheim Ducks (4-5-2). Putting together arguably their best game of the season, Pittsburgh took control and allowed only a single goal while scoring five.
Defenseman Kris Letang, who returned from an upper-body injury, tallied two points (1G, 1A) and helped bring more versatility to head coach Mike Sullivan’s blue line pairings.
The Penguins looked a bit rusty in the first period, which could be a result of the long time off. Sullivan’s second and third period adjustments were what brought the Penguins to victory.
Goaltender Matt Murray’s strong season debut (following a hand injury) comes at a good time for Marc-Andre Fleury, who had played in nine straight games.
Pittsburgh put together a fantastic game. Aside from a single goal, each cog in the machine played very well and looked confident. Birthday boy Matt Cullen (40 years old) got a nice present: He scored the Penguins’ winning goal.
For one of the few times this season, the Penguins were able to build themselves a cushion. And it was clear Pittsburgh benefited from having some extra and much-needed rest. All four lines flowed well, and players on the fourth line saw a spike in playing time.
Anaheim looked outmatched for the most part of the game, even though they had just one fewer shot on goal than the Penguins’ 33.
Starting his first game of the season, Murray didn’t look out of place in the least. With Fleury due for a rest, the 22-year-old Murray was back to his postseason form from last year.
The Pittsburgh defense’s ability to block 14 shots was another reason why Murray had such a good night. The lone blemish on the game came early during a power play, by Cam Fowler.
However, a tough second period and a two-goal third period was just too much for Anaheim to handle. Add in Murray’s great performance, and it’s difficult to see any team denying the Penguins a win Wednesday.
“It was focus, it was determination, it was commitment,” Sullivan said. “We were able to keep the pace high and roll the lines over.”
He continued: “[Murray] had some timely saves. It seemed like when the Ducks got their shots, they were in flurries — three, four, five at a time.”
Sullivan confirmed that Fleury will start in net Thursday night against the Kings. With Murray now biting at Fleury’s heels, it’ll be interesting to see how competitive things get.
Only two more games remain on this road trip, the next one being against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. This game will be another late one, starting at 10:30 p.m. EDT.
Image credit: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo