From the Point Too
by brianmetzer on 10/12/11 at 01:31 AM ET
Though it wasn’t pretty, the Penguins picked up their third win in four games and sent the Consol Energy Center faithful home happy. They got some big contributions from some unlikely sources, as Joe Vitale had the best game of his young career, Richard Park showed why he was brought back to Pittsburgh and Matt Cooke stayed hot.
Some might think that playing without a couple of world class talents like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin might slow this group down, but that just wasn’t the case. The Penguins’ third and fourth lines controlled play on each and every shift that they took the ice and showed the a national TV audience on Versus why so many in town have been praising this team’s depth.
On a night with so many unsung heroes it was Vitale and his line that really opened some eyes. He started his evening off by setting up Pascal Dupuis’s game opening goal with some hard work behind the net. Kris Letang shoveled a puck towards the net, but it went wide and caromed off of the end boards. Vitale fought through a defender, gathered the puck and flipped it to a streaking Dupuis who buried it behind goaltender Jose Theodore on a second effort.
“I think every time I’m on a line with Matt it comes down to effort and work ethic,” said Pascal Dupuis. “The way we play we complement each other by holding up the puck, playing physical, getting pucks out of the corners.
“I don’t know, he seems to find me and I seem to find him and Joe he’s obviously a hungry young player that skates really well and is making great plays right now.”
Vitale picked up his second assist of the night on the team’s second goal when he carried the puck down the wing after receiving it from Dupuis, pulled a defender with him and towards the corner while at the same time sliding a beaut of a pass to Matt Cooke who was coming down the slot. Cooke would later say that the pass was so great he had the shoot the puck a total of six inches.
“He’s played great since camp, even last season when he was playing with us,” Marc Andre Fleury said of Vitale’s contributions. “He’s a fast guy, good shot and has a couple points already this season…good to have him.”
The Panthers would get one back off the stick of Marcel Goc, but it didn’t stop the birds from cashing in again 3:15 later. Theodore played a puck to Tomas Fleischmann who had it stripped by Craig Adams. The puck went into the high slot, where Richard Park fired a dart for his first goal since returning to the team.
Fleischmann didn’t have to wait long to redeem himself as he chipped in the Panthers second goal of the game, though it wouldn’t be enough to bring his team back.
James Neal finished the scoring by punching in his second goal of the young season matching his Penguins’ goal total from a season ago. Surprisingly he used his speed and size to muscle past a Panthers defender to get to the loose puck, before chipping it over Theodore’s shoulder.
Marc Andre Fleury made things very interesting late in the game as he took advantage of the two-goal lead to try and shoot for the empty net late in regulation. Unfortunately for him, the shot was blocked and deflected back towards his goal. Luckily for him his teammates helped him keep it out of the cage and they went on to win the game 4-2.
Matt Cooke on the ovation he got when he was introduced this evening:
“It’s pretty special. I got a huge ovation [on] shirts off our back [night]at the end of last year when I still had to go through suspension, I think I was overwhelmed and I was just as overwhelmed today.”
Player and coach on MAF’s failed attempt at the empty net:
Fleury: “Oh jeez… A little too much… the guys were great. Everybody was sliding everywhere to try to block it. One day, one day, I’m going to get one…I hope.”
Dan Bylsma: “Well if scoring one would get him to stop trying then yes (laughs all around)… if somehow we could get him credit for one, that would be great, then he could stop trying to take that risk out there with his shot.”
Richard Park on what has impressed him since returning to Pittsburgh:
“The only think I can really say that really, really I’m impressed and amazed and shocked is by the expectation level, [it] is probably the highest I’ve ever been a part of and that’s without those guys [Crosby/Malkin]. It’s amazing.
Elaboration on the expectation level:
“Right from day one it was very apparent to me. It doesn’t take you long to realize that is set right from up top and that filters right down all the way down to the players… up top coaches, the players the trainers, everyone just really high expectations this year…not only of themselves, but of their teammates and their co-workers. I tell you what it is a pretty amazing environment around here.”
It starts with Shero:
“It’s very apparent that Ray sets the bar very, very high.”
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