So what happened?
Brent Johnson had a very shaky start. He also had a very strong finish. The backup netminder was fighting the puck all night long, allowing two very soft goals in the first period and multiple rebounds. However, when it came down to crunch time, there were no crucial rebounds, and there were no goals for the Sabres.
The resurgence of Johnson through the second half of the game may be the most important thing to come out of this contest. Assuming the Pens give him one more assignment prior to the start of the playoffs, it will give Johnson a chance to continue his momentum and head into the post-season on a high note.
Back to the game - the big guns earned the results tonight. Sid had four points. Sullivan had three. Geno had two. The power play scored twice. The offense provided some timely scoring in general, especially to pick up Johnson after a rough first period.
The intensity is also worth mentioning. There were nearly 60 hits thrown in this game. It felt like a playoff game, with some nastiness going back and forth early and then settling down as the game wound down (probably due to fear of taking a penalty).
Malkin (48), Crosby (5), Neal (38), Sullivan (15), Staal (25)
- Sid became the seventh youngest player to reach 600 points tonight.
- Matt Niskanen returned and stepped right into the top 4 defensemen on a night when Engelland and Strait weren't used as much.
- Neal's power play goal was almost perfect from the perspective of a Pens' fan. Geno controlled the puck and somehow gained the zone. He dished it to Crosby who threw a diagonal pass to Neal cutting down the slot. Neal finished off "The Whitney Play" better than Ryan ever did by burying the puck behind Miller.
- Johnson in the first period. Not good, especially on the Ennis goal. Fortunately, he turned things around quickly.
- How on early was Thomas Vanek one of the three stars? Did he do something special I didn't notice? He was the beneficiary of a bizarre bounce that rewarded him for being the last man out of the offensive zone. He was also a -1, which means he was on the ice for at least two other goals against. Second star? Really?
- I was surprised that HCDB kept flip flopping his lines. He seemed to have Sullivan and Neal switching spots much of the night.
What's their record now?
The Pens are 48-24-6. They are five points behind the Rangers and four ahead of the Flyers.
Get ready to feel the hate. The Flyers come to Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. It's on NBC. You just know Hartnell will do something dumb.