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Friday, December 19, 2008

Game Recap: Penguins 6 - Thrashers 3

Marc-Andre Fleury returned from injury and helped the Penguins defeat the Atlanta Thrashers last night by a score of 6-3. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists, as he continues to lead the NHL scoring race.

The win was only the second one in six games for the Penguins, and only their third win in the month of December. Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal, Miroslav Satan and Phillippe Boucher also scored for the Penguins.

Rarely in a 6-3 win can you say that the goaltender stole the game for his team, but last night that is exactly what happened.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury the Penguins could have easily lost this game. He held off huge Atlanta pressure at the beginning and the end of the game, making several great saves. His glove hand was especially strong last night.

Defensively the Penguins played a bad game. Atlanta's third goal was a direct result of a terrible defensive lapse by Satan. With the score 5-2, Satan lazily passed the puck across the ice in the defensive zone where it was promptly snatched up by former Penguin Colby Armstrong. Armstrong walked in on Fleury all alone and scored.

The game also had it's rough moments. Armstrong and Eric Godard were both assessed ten minute misconducts in the third period for roughing. In the opening frame, some action around the net prior to Atlanta's first goal led to Sidney Crosby uncharacteristically unloading punches onto the back of a Thrasher's head.

This was not a textbook game for the Penguins, but they got the win they needed. The victory was mostly because of good goaltending in the Penguins' net, and soft goaltending in the Thrashers' net. This still wasn't a great effort, but it was a win nonetheless.

Interestingly enough, with Johan Hedberg pulled from the Atlanta net in the dying seconds of the game, Sidney Crosby had a chance at the empty netter. He passed the puck to Malkin, who was stopped. Seconds later Crosby had another chance to score, and he against passed to Malkin, who put it in this time.

Is this a case of Crosby actually wanting Malkin to win the scoring race? Or were the Penguins unsure if it was Malkin or Staal that scored the team's third goal? Staal's goal was originally credited to Malkin, so the empty net would have given him a hat trick if the original decision stood. Either way, classy move by Sid.

As a side note, the attendance in Atlanta looked particularly poor last night. If you remove the many, many Penguins fans I saw in the crowd, there were probably only a few thousand people there.

The Penguins play Saturday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Penguins will be wearing their third jerseys.

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