Malkin returns; Penguins keep rolling
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to 14 games Thursday night, and did it with relative ease.
Pascal Dupuis scored twice, Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup with a goal and Tomas Vokoun got his 50th career shutout as the Penguins beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 at Consol Energy Center.
“We’re a great team, and we’re playing the way we’re supposed to,” Vokoun said.
It was probably just that simple against the Jets. After 10 minutes that were played on fairly even terms, the Penguins took over the game. They wound up with a 43-20 edge in shots.
“We played defense in the offensive zone,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
Bylsma said earlier in the day that he had no intention of breaking up his top line of Sidney Crosby, Dupuis and Chris Kunitz despite the acquisition of Jarome Iginla from Calgary. They reaffirmed their case to stay together with a strong game.
They displayed their almost telepathic passing skill on Dupuis’ second goal, when Crosby banked a pass off the boards to Kunitz, who then set up Dupuis by hitting him in stride with a pass. Crosby made a behind-the-back pass to set up Kunitz’s 20th goal.
“They played extremely well,” Bylsma said.
Malkin scored the Penguins’ second goal by crashing the net so he was in position to take James Neal’s pass through the crease. The puck went off Malkin’s stick, off goalie Al Montoya, then off Malkin’s skate and across the line.
Dupuis almost apologized for his second goal, a shorthanded score in the second period. Dupuis beat Tobias Enstrom to the puck, then had a 2-on-1 with Tanner Glass against Enstrom.
Dupuis held the puck and scored, but he regretted not passing to Glass, who doesn’t have a point this season.
“I looked at him a couple times,” Dupuis said. “I don’t know, you can’t go back, (and) I’m obviously happy it’s in the net, but I would have loved to slide it over.”
The biggest threat to Vokoun’s shutout was a 5-on-3 Jets power play for 1:56 early in the third period. Matt Niskanen got an interference penalty, and Brooks Orpik was sent for delay of game when he shot a puck over the glass.
The Penguins held the Jets to two shots. Craig Adams blocked two shots, while Glass and Brandon Sutter also blocked shots.
“To me that was the highlight of the game,” Bylsma said.
Vokoun stopped Kyle Wellwood on a third period breakway. Former Penguin Eric Tangradi also had a breakaway, but shot the puck wide.
The Penguins had two priorities in the third period with a 4-0 lead: Get Vokoun the shutout and get Dupuis a hat trick. Dupuis had a chance, putting a shot off the crossbar in the final minute.
The defensive effort helped Vokoun get his second shutout of the season and 50th in a career that started in 1988-89.
“It’s a pretty amazing number,” Bylsma said. “Fifty is a big number. We’re not talking Marty Brodeur numbers, but that’s a lot of shutouts for a guy.”
Vokoun has won six games in the streak, and he’s stopped 133 of the last 137 shots he’s faced.
It was all good news for the Penguins, who saw Malkin return after missing nine games with an upper body injury. Malkin had four shots on goal and attempted three other shots.
“It didn’t take him long to create chances out here,” Crosby said. “To see him flying around out there, that was nice to see.”
Defenseman Douglas Murray debuted after being acquired from San Jose. He played 18:20, had three hits and a blocked shot. He was paired with Niskanen.
“I was happy to get a game like that, the team played great,” Murray said. “It was a great first game. There’s going to be learning curve for a little while.”
One of the first things he should learn is the Penguins don’t really think about the streak.
“It’s not something we talk about,” Crosby said. “We know that the streak is nice, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the result of our hard work, but I don’t think anybody is going to remember that come playoff time. We want to make sure we’re doing the right things preparing for the playoffs, and making sure our game is where it needs to be.”
Marc-Andre Fleury, who took a blow to the head in Tuesday’s game, did not dress. Jeff Zatkoff was recalled from Wilkes Barre as the backup goalie. … The Penguins have allowed nine goals in the last 10 games. … The Penguins did not have a power play opportunity. The last time they won a game without getting a power play was April 3, 2000 against Carolina at home. … Neal’s assist on Malkin’s goal was his second point in the last eight games. He has gone nine games without a goal. … Tangradi has one goal and two points in 23 games since the Penguins traded him to Winnipeg. … The New York Islanders visit Saturday at 1 p.m.