“Geno was buzzing,” Fleury said. “Not just on his goal, I thought he played a very good game. He was dominant holding onto the puck a lot, creating a lot. When you see him going like that, I think you feel confident you can make a comeback in a game.”
The Penguins, of course, did. Which you’ll see I wrote about if you click the link above.
Something I felt like I didn’t spend enough time talking about was Malkin, specifically how he seemed to take the game over in the second period.
When Schultz scored at 7:45, that gave the Penguins life. It let them sniff a comeback. Maybe Malkin’s blast from the right circle at 13:42, on the power play, was when dinner was served.
“That was a bomb,” Sheary said. “That was a big momentum shift for us.”
A couple numbers on that Malkin tally:
• It was his 29th of the season, tied for fifth in the NHL.
• Malkin extended his home point streak to three games (3-2—5) and also leads the league in home points (16-30—46).
• Malkin is approaching his fifth 30-goal season. When he gets it, he’ll become the sixth Penguin to post five or more 30-goal seasons.
1. Remember the NHL 100 list? You can bet Malkin does, too. He’s playing like a man possessed. In a good way. He has five goals and eight points in his last six games.
2. Isn’t this why general manager Jim Rutherford kept Fleury around? Sure, injury. But what a luxury, to go to Fleury in a situation like this. He deserves to start Wednesday in Winnipeg.
Here are a few Fleury quotes I didn’t otherwise use:
Phil Kessel:“He’s phenomenal. He made so many big saves for us tonight. He shut the door, and he gave us a chance.”
Schultz: “Flower came in and made some huge saves to keep us in it. We were still down 3-0. They had some good chances. You can’t say enough about him. He’s a great teammate.”
3. Nice work, too, by Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit. Those two were outstanding tonight and have been the past two games.
Don’t know if I could be more impressed with Hainsey’s game since he arrived here. He’s big. Plays a little mean. Can skate. Has a long, active stick. Excellent on the PK. It’s amazing how much he communicates out there, which I think will be good for this group.
Streit has more offense to his game, which was expected. He’s already seeing power-play time.
Rutherford and his staff have given you ample reasons to trust them. Here are two more.
Sullivan addressed Streit and Hainsey after the game. The answer’s long, but it’s really good. I’ll separate it into three paragraphs and past it below:
“The defense corps is the engine that drives your team. They help you get out of your end zone. Whether you can get out clean with possession versus chasing it is a big difference. I think defensemen a lot of times feed the transition game for you. They’re able to make that first pass, that quick-up that gives our forwards an opportunity to maybe create a numbers situation where they might get an odd-man rush and they’ve got a competitive advantage. The defense corps, by nature of the position, it’s so important to all aspects of the game.
“I think Mark and Ron bring a lot to the table. They’re different players in their own right. Mark’s a little bit more on the offensive side. He’s got great instincts. He can really pass the puck. He’s got good puck poise on the offensive blue line. He’s good on the power play. Ron makes a great outlet pass as well. I think Ron’s more of a stay-at-home guy. He’s a god defender. He’s a mobile guy. He has a long reach. He’s hard to play against. He takes up space out there.
“These guys bring a little different skill sets, but I think that’s what helps our group because of that. We really like what we’ve seen from these guys so far. They’ve really fit in. First and foremost, they’re just terrific guys. They fit right in with our group. They’re good people. And I think they’re excited to be Penguins. I think they see the type of team that we have and the opportunity in front of us, I think they’re excited about being a part of it.”
The winning goal
Sheary got it. Impressive stuff, too. In large part because Schultz wasn’t selling shot as much as he was actually thinking about shooting the puck.
“I was pretty close to shooting it,” Schultz said. “I heard him yell. I just looked over, and he had a step on the guy. He made a good shot to finish it there.”
Here’s how Sheary saw it:
“I rolled up on the weak side and gave it to [Brian Dumoulin],” Sheary said. “I just tried to beat my defender back door. Schultzy made a hell of a pass back door. I had the whole net to shoot at.”
After one of their worst periods of the season, a first period that saw the Penguins fall behind, 3-0, coach Mike Sullivan switched his lines around.
One of the combinations was Kessel playing with Malkin, a duo that has worked in the past and combined to produce Schultz’s goal.
Malkin gained the zone. Kessel waited and waited and waited before threading a pass to a cutting Schultz.
The past three games, Kessel’s playmaking abilities have been on serious display.
“When we play together, we always get a little something going,” Kessel said. “We always get some chances. We were able to get another one tonight. See how it goes. See what happens next game.”
Another change was Matt Cullen with Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, although Sullivan said he still needs to process this one before committing any further. By the end, it was Sheary with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, a trio you could see a lot of down the stretch.
But Sullivan was non-committal to anything he did against the Sabres.
“I think I have to try and this whole experience, so I can figure out what to make of it to be honest with you,” Sullivan said. “We juggled the lines to try and create a spark. We were flat in that first period. We didn’t like what we saw. Sometimes by changing some line combinations around, as a coaching staff, we can try to affect a little bit of change and see where it goes. I think the players responded more than anything. .They responded with a higher compete level and intensity level. We’ll talk as a coaching staff over the next couple of days and see where we go with the lines. I’m not sure at this point.”
Numbers, notes and milestone
Home cooking: Penguins are 20-2-2 in their past 24 home games dating back to Nov. 26, 2016. ... Pittsburgh leads the NHL in overall goals (221) and home goals (133). ... The Penguins have scored four or more goals in 18 of 33 home games.
Comeback trail: Sunday marked the eighth time the Penguins have won this season when trailing after two. They overcame a three-goal deficit for the first time since Jan. 16 against Washington.
Sheary's goal was his fifth game-winning goal of the season, tying him with Malkin and Crosby for the team lead. ... Sheary has 28 points in his last 28 games, including 14 goals.
Fleury is 10-3-2 in his last 15 decisions.
Schultz now has 11 goals. That ties his career-high, set in 2013-14 with Edmonton.
Jason Mackey: email@example.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.
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