Huge Game, Huge Win — Pens win 6-3

After four days of rest it was crucial for the Penguins to get a win over an inferior Atlanta team.  They did just that, wasting little time getting on the board.

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Pittsburgh 6 – Atlanta 3

Once they got on the board, they kept coming as well.

After an opening goal by Matt Cooke and a second by Evgeni Malkin, the Thrashers answered with just 0:39 left in the first period.  With a only a one-goal lead and a penalty that carried over, the Pens could have easily folded and gave up yet another lead.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke (24) slips the puck past Atlanta thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec, of the Czech Republic, in the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke (24) slips the puck past Atlanta thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec, of the Czech Republic, in the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Instead, they killed the penalty and got a power play of their own.  Jordan Staal got a deflect in front for a 3-1 advantage.  Another power play came about and so did another Pittsburgh goal by Miroslav Satan.  With a 4-1 advantage, the game was well in hand.

The first five minutes of the game was nerve wracking.  However, Marc-Andre Fleury made huge stops to preserve a scorelss tie and give the Pens a chance to get the first goal.

Fleury’s reaction time was spectacular for missing so much time.  Though he gave up three goals, it’s exciting to know that this is where he is starting.  He will only get better and stronger to return to the form he had at the start of the season.

After Cooke’s goal, the Pens got all the momentum.  A strong 3+ minute shift by Ilya Kovalchuk led to their goal and it gave the Thrashers momentum going in to the break.  They also took a power play that carried over.  So it began on edge and ended on edge.

A win was what all Pens fans were looking for.  However, there were aspects of the game everyone was watching for as well, Fleury’s performance being one of them.

Another was the power play against the league’s worst penalty kill.  It also faired well, going 2-for-5 — a clip of 40%.

This game was huge because the Pens really need to win the next four games.  They are all against opponents that are below them in the standings and, since Pittsburgh has lost a lot of ground in the Atlantic Division, points are all that matters.

With the win, Pittsburgh picked up two points on Philadelphia who lost to Montreal.

Scoring:

1st Period:

5:32 — PIT Matt Cooke (4) from J. Staal (9) and T. Wallace (1).  Broken stick on a shot went right to Mark Eaton who forwarded it up ice.  The puck came to Cooke on the left wing and he fired it short side for the goal.

9:40 — PIT Evgeni Malkin (13) from P. Sykora (14).  Malkin threw it to Sykora who atttempted to shott but sent a slow dribbler wide.  Malkin followed the play and backhanded it in to an empty net.

19:21 — ATL Marty Reasoner (12) from C. Thorburn (3) and I. Kovalchuk (21).  Kovalchuk threw the puck to the net.  It caromed off of Kris Letang’s skate and then off of Reasoner and in.

2nd Period:

3:30 — PIT Jordan Staal (11) from E. Malkin (38) and S. Crosby (32).  On the power play, Crosby simply passed the puck to Malkin at the point who then fired a slapper to the goal.  It was deflected by Staal in front for the goal.

5:54 — PIT Miroslav Satan (12) from J. Taffe (2) and R. Fedotenko (8).  On the power play, Taffe left the front of the net for a pass from Fedotenko.  He immediately threw it to Satan who was in front of the net and he backhanded it in.

7:32 — ATL Bryan Little (12) from T. White (18) and V. Kozlov (12).  On the power play, just a nice cycle off the opening faceoff on the pp ended in front of the net with Little.

8:04 — PIT Philippe Boucher (2) from E. Malkin (38) and P. Sykora (15). Geno soft pass to Boucher coming down right wing.  He shot a slapper that deflected off of a defender and in while the public address announcer was reciting the previous goal by Atlanta.

3rd Period:

14:55 — ATL Colby Armstrong (7) unassisted.  Armstrong intercepted a Pittsburgh pass in the offensive zone and beat Fleury.

19:33 — PIT Evgeni Malkin (14) from S. Crosby (33) and R. Scuderi (8).  Empty Net goal.

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