From the Point Too
by brianmetzer on 10/14/11 at 01:20 AM ET
Though the Penguins didn’t come away with the victory tonight they picked up a couple of small victories. First and foremost, they were able to pick up a point in a game in which they looked as if they were destined to lose. The second came in the form of how they picked up that point – two goals from James Neal.
Neal, who has been maligned to a certain extent by fans and media alike since his arrival in Pittsburgh last February due to his meager goal output, is quickly showing all involved that he is a pretty capable goal scorer.
“There was talk of only getting one in the regular season last year but James scores goals,” head coach Dan Bylsma said following his team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals. “He’s got a great shot; he’s a fast skater, a hard skater to the net.”
Neal, who never got an opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin upon his arrival from Dallas, is certainly making good on the chance to do so now. The 24-year-old forward has found instant chemistry with Malkin and Steve Sullivan and the trio combined for 5-points (2G-3A) on the night.
The first goal came on a pretty passing play that went Malkin, to Sullivan, to Neal, who buried a one timer from the right circle.
“Yeah, the first one was a great passing play,” Neal said. “Gino was flying up the middle and dropped it off to Sully and then Sully put it over to me and I got a quick shot.”
Neal looked every bit the player that the Penguins hoped that they were getting for Alex Goligoski, as he launched 8 shots on goal and now has 20 on the year. The eighth of those shots went for the game-tying goal just when it seemed that Tomas Vokoun was going to guide his team to a 2-1 victory.
Malkin again meshed with Neal, bringing the defense to himself and finding Neal with a pass coming down the left wing boards. Neal fired a shot along the ice that beat Vokoun through the five-hole and earned his team a point on the evening.
“Great for Nealer, he battles hard and he’s got a great shot and he’s taking advantage of playing with those guys like Geno,” Zbynek Michalek said of his teammate. “He’s got a great shot and a quick release and we need him to score big goals for us. He came through for us tonight and we’re going to need him going forward too.”
It is worth noting that Neal’s outstanding performance thus far on the season is not all that surprising, as he has long been known as a quick starter. In fact, over the four Octobers that he has been in the National Hockey League he has posted a stellar 35-points (19G-16A), 31 of which have come over the past three seasons.
Neal was quick to echo the sentiments of his teammates Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, who earlier in the year felt that they were in position to be more successful because they are now acclimated to Pittsburgh. Being a stranger in a new town, on a new team and in a new system sometimes takes a toll – especially on a young player.
“Yeah, [I’m] feeling good,” Neal said. “Coming in and having a full camp in Pittsburgh and getting settled and making Pittsburgh a home and feeling comfortable, it definitely leads over on the ice.”
Something tells me the Penguins’ coaches and management are feeling pretty good about James Neal too.
Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin took part in a pre-game ceremonial face-off that was part of a their teaming up to raise funds for the families of those lost in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash back in September. The puck was dropped by Mario Lemieux, which was an unannounced surprise for those in attendance. All of the jerseys from both sides featured a Lokomotiv Yaroslavl patch and will be auctioned off via NHL.com. Players’ wives and girlfriends also sold “Love for Lokomotiv” bracelets.
James Neal wasn’t the only one launching multiple pucks at Vokoun, Tyler Kennedy finished the evening with 6 shots on goal.
Arron Asham engaged the Caps Jay Beagle in a fight following his confrontation with Kris Letang during the third period. Asham caught Beagle with a strong right hand that seemingly knocked the youngster out for a few moments. Unfortunately, Asham who was caught up in the moment, made a “lights out” gesture over the fallen Beagle that he really seemed to regret post game.
“It’s unfortunate the way the fight ended. Obviously I want to win but I don’t want to go out there and hurt anyone and my gestures after it was done— I was into the game and it was uncalled for and classless on my part. I think those guys over there know that I’m not that kind of guy to be going off. It was a big game and I wanted to get my bench going… it was classless on my part.”
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