Penguins beat Canucks in special teams battle
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes save against the Canucks in the second period of Wednesday's game at Consol Energy Center.
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Max Talbot didn't want to be greedy about it.
Hey, he would have been content just to neutralize Vancouver's fearsome power play for 60 minutes. Breaking even would have been plenty.
"That was the goal, to not allow a goal," Talbot said. "But we did more."
More than almost anyone expected as Talbot scored a short-handed goal that proved to be the winner in the Penguins' 3-1 victory Wednesday night against the Canucks at Consol Energy Center.
Preventing Vancouver from scoring on its five opportunities with the extra man was the primary objective, of course, but being the first team to score against the Canucks this season while killing a penalty added a nice wrinkle.
Talbot got the goal at 5:43 of the second period to cap a rush with Matt Cooke, He collected the puck behind the Vancouver goal line after it struck Cooke's skate in front of the net and, recalling goaltending coach Gilles Meloche's observation that Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo can be a bit vulnerable when forced to go across the crease, tucked a shot inside the right post for a 2-0 lead.
"To get the goal means we won the special-teams [battle], and that's a big part of the game," coach Dan Bylsma said.
So is goaltending, and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins (10-8-2) turned in the latest in a run of strong starts, rejecting 29 of 30 Vancouver shots.
"The third period, they got a little bit more action, a few more shots," Bylsma said. "I can't think of one time when the shot was taken that you didn't see him square, positional, eating the rebound up."
Aside from Luongo, Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was the only guy to stop nearly as many pucks as Fleury. He was matched against the Canucks' top line, which features twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin and responded with some outstanding work.
Orpik finished with six hits and five blocked shots; the Sedins had one assist each and combined for five shots. They hardly were reduced to non-factors, but they certainly didn't take control of the game the way they're capable of, either.
"It's a big challenge against those guys, and they have a lot of other guys they can stick with the twins to complement them," Orpik said. "Those guys are really good once they get in your zone and start cycling.
"I thought we did a really good job of being physical and taking their time and space away."
Orpik had a variety of partners over the course of the evening -- "I think I had a shift with everybody, to be honest," he said -- but formed a particularly effective pairing with Zbynek Michalek, who turned in perhaps his best performance of the season.
Mind you, fear is a great motivator, and regardless of whether the Sedins are playing with Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson or a peanut vendor, they're capable of exploiting the tiniest opening. That makes it easy for the opponent to keep paying attention.
"You can't give [the Sedins] anything," Orpik said. "They're so creative together. ... You can't let your guard down. It definitely keeps your focus."
The Sedins are very good -- as is their team -- and they seem to know it. That was evident when Daniel Sedin suggested the Canucks lost the game, rather than the Penguins won it.
"This is a team I think we should beat," he said. "They give up a lot of chances, and we didn't capitalize. We need to be better. That's the bottom line."
Whatever the case, Vancouver was forced to play from behind all night.
The Penguins went in front to stay seconds after killing the Canucks' first power play as Sidney Crosby stepped out of the penalty box just as a clearing pass arrived.
"It was perfect timing," Crosby said. "As soon as I came out, the puck was there."
Crosby broke in alone on Luongo and beat him on the stick side for his 13th goal of the season.
Talbot got the deciding goal early in the second, and Arron Asham added some insurance by scoring from close range at 9:04.
The Canucks turned an Evgeni Malkin turnover into their only goal, by defenseman Dan Hamhuis, 34 seconds later, but could get no closer.
"We played a great game, solid all the way through and got some big goals, some timely goals," Crosby said. "We've got to keep going like this."
First Published November 18, 2010 12:00 am