Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pittsburgh changes tactics; Kovalchuk changes reaction

See what happens when you play defense?
One game after allowing over a dozen shots in two different periods in an epic collapse against Boston, Pittsburgh decided, "Hey, maybe we should try to STOP the other team from scoring instead of help them."

The Penguins' renewed commitment (for one game anyway) to their own end paid off as they held Tampa Bay to 16 shots, for once supporting Marc-Andre Fleury, and Pittsburgh got a trio of late goals to roll over the Lightning, 5-1. Fleury made 15 saves to earn just his second win of the season, becoming the seventh youngest goalie to win 150 games.

On Wednesday, Pittsburgh allowed Boston to get 14 shots on goal in the first period and 13 in the third. Tampa Bay had only nine through two periods and Steven Stamkos didn't get a shot on goal until 5:30 into the third period on a 5-on-3 power play, which he scored on.

Goals by Pascal Dupuis and Alex Goligoski in the second period staked the Penguins, who by the way finished with only 20 shots, to a 2-0 lead. Stamkos' goal cut the lead in half, then Max Talbot, Sidney Crosby and Deryk Engelland (his first in the NHL) scored in the final eight minutes to remove the drama. Crosby, Dupuis and Talbot each had one assist.

I've got to be honest here. I think all the credit goes to me wearing my Dick Tarnstrom jersey, one of the finest offensive defensemen to suit up in black and gold yet one of the worst in his own end to wear any color, ever. The Penguins players saw me wear this and said, "Man, that guy played some bad defense. We don't want to be associated with the likes of him, do we?"

And that's what inspired them to play so well defensively. The end.

Kovalchuk scores; Devils win
The above headline is NOT, I repeat is NOT, an April Fools joke. I'm being perfectly honest here.

When the Devils lost their last game thanks in part to two horrid misses by Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils fans booed their $100 million player. Those turned to cheers when Kovalchuk scored his fourth goal of the season in overtime, on the power play, to give New Jersey its first home win of the season, 4-3 over Edmonton.

Seriously, just his fourth goal of the year. It was his first strike since Oct. 24, a goalless streak of seven games. In those seven games, he tallied just two assists, and they came in the same game.

New Jersey's high-powered offense (*cough* Sorry, something in my throat) overcame a 3-1 deficit and two goals by Edmonton's Colin Fraser. Devan Dubnyk kept his team in the game with 35 saves. Martin Brodeur needed to make just 21. Two Devils, Alexander Vasyunov and Mattias Tedenby, scored their first goals of their careers, and Brian Rolston netted his first of the season.

The Kipa Good Call of the night
Told you Steve Mason was going to be bad.

Colorado scored three times in the final 10 minutes of the second period to snap a 1-1 tie en route to a 5-1 win over Columbus, with Mason giving up all five goals. David Jones scored two of them and set up another, someone called Greg Mauldin scored his first career goal shorthanded, and Philippe Dupuis and Paul Stastny also scored. Peter Budaj made 28 saves.

Rick Nash did not play for Columbus with an injury. Where was Chris freaking Clark when you needed him?

(Blogger's note: There would be a feature called "Kipa's Bad Call of the night" when I get something wrong, but that's already a feature. It's called the Kipa Recap.)

Quick hits
--Christopher Higgins and Mike Santorelli scored 53 seconds apart early in the game and Tomas Vokoun's 21 saves made them hold up in Florida's 2-1 win over Minnesota.
--Vernon Fiddler scored twice in the third period, once into an empty net to complete his hat trick, and Phoenix survived a late scare from Calgary, 5-4. Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves. Fiddler's empty netter put the Coyotes ahead 5-2 before two Calgary goals 29 seconds apart in the final minute made things slightly interesting.
--Bobby Ryan netted power play and empty net goals in the third period as Anaheim doubled up Dallas, 4-2. Jonas Hiller made 27 saves.

--Great fan reaction tonight in Pittsburgh, with chants of "Fleur-eee" (encouraging chants, not derisive ones) just before the opening faceoff in an attempt to inspire Pittsburgh's struggling franchise netminder. He made a few big saves too. The Stamkos shot was a rocket that he's scored on many a time lately, couldn't do a thing about it.

--After such a woeful defensive performance Wednesday, it seemed Dan Bylmsa felt Pittsburgh had to go in completely the opposite direction Friday. It worked splendidly but it'll be interesting to see how they play Saturday.

--Jarome Iginla was a minus-4 tonight. How the mighty have fallen. I blame Olli Jokinen.

--I guess the Ducks, with six straight wins, should start being considered a force now in the West. Let's see how they fare on their upcoming three-game road trip. Anaheim is 3-6-0 on the road.

--The funny thing about Anaheim is as well as its played lately, its goal differential is still minus-6. That's how bad the Ducks were early on.

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