Penguins rally past Chicago, 5-4, in shootout
Thursday, February 15, 2007
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sure, the Penguins probably could find a way to live a bit more dangerously.
They could apply for part-time jobs on a bomb-disposal unit, maybe, or take up juggling chain saws as a hobby.
Barring any of that, though, they'll have to settle for continuing to find ways to win games after squandering multiple-goal leads.
They did it for the third time in a row last night, when they pulled out a 5-4 shootout victory against Chicago at Mellon Arena. That came in the wake of a 6-5 overtime triumph in Toronto Saturday, which followed a 5-4 shootout victory at Philadelphia 48 hours earlier.
"It's a good thing I'm not too old, so I don't have a heart attack," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said.
Actually, a lot of Penguins fans probably added a cardiologist to their speed-dial 12 seconds into overtime, when Fleury had to whip out his left leg to get his skate on a shot by Blackhawks winger Martin Havlat from the right side of the crease.
"That was the most I could stretch," Fleury said.
Although the save on Havlat was Fleury's best of the evening -- "We had the game-winner on our stick," Chicago coach Denis Savard said -- he turned in a couple of nice sequels during the shootout, when he denied Havlat and Bryan Smolinski.
Couple those saves with shootout goals from Erik Christensen and Evgeni Malkin, and the Penguins had a victory that extended their current surge to 12-0-2 and kept them tied with Ottawa for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
"Marc was really good in the overtime and in the shootout," coach Michel Therrien said. "He plays with confidence when it seems to be crunch time. He's able to elevate his game."
So, it seems, is Malkin, who got his team-leading 28th goal at 14:21 of the third period to tie the game and, eventually, put it into overtime. The goal came after Therrien bumped him into Ryan Malone's spot on the No. 1 line with Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi.
"We kind of decided to go all in, like it was a poker game," Therrien said.
He ended up with a winning hand when Malkin scored in the shootout to give the Penguins an insurmountable, 2-0 advantage.
Penguins rookie Jordan Staal was held without a goal for the first time in six games, while Sidney Crosby failed to get one for his eighth game in a row, the longest such slump of his pro career.
Crosby also was unable to beat Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin during the shootout, but picked up an assist on Malkin's game-tying goal to push his league-leading points total to 88.
Craig MacDonald gave Chicago a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal at 8:29 of the opening period, when he chipped a shot past Fleury from the right side of the crease, but Ronald Petrovicky countered for the Penguins at 10:32.
Maxime Talbot put the Penguins in front with a shorthanded goal -- his fourth and their ninth -- at 4:10 of the second, as he carried the puck down the right side, then blew past Havlat and cut to the net before stuffing it past Khabibulin.
Michel Ouellet gave the Penguins some breathing room at 15:01 of the second when he threw a wrist shot behind Khabibulin from the top of the right circle for his 13th, but Patrick Sharp made it a one-goal game again just over three minutes later.
The Blackhawks pulled even when Martin St. Pierre tossed in a rebound from inside the right circle during a power play at 2:18 of the third, and Tuomo Ruutu put them in front, 4-3, by scoring at 13:10.
The Penguins, who were adamant that Chicago had too many players on the ice when Ruutu scored, were concerned after the Hawks went ahead, but hardly were ready to panic.
"We came back before," Talbot said. "And we know we can do it."
And 71 seconds later, they did it, as Malkin nudged his own rebound past Khabibulin to make it 4-4.
"Malkin was flying," Therrien said.
So are the Penguins, who persist in living on the edge and continue to get away with it, although they recognize the perils of failing to hold onto the leads they have been building.
"By no means can we look past that or try to pretend it's not happening, because it's been a couple of games now," Crosby said. "It's not a habit we want to get into."