Penguins Notebook: Ponikarovsky gets goal in debut
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This was just what the Penguins envisioned when they swung a deal with Toronto to get left winger Alexei Ponikarovsky.
"I'm a big guy. I basically have to screen the goalie," Ponikarovsky said Saturday after he did just that and, a second or so later, got his first goal with his new team to cap a 6-3 win against Dallas at Mellon Arena.
Matchup: Penguins vs. Boston Bruins, 3:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Tim Thomas for Bruins.
Penguins: Have won three games in a row and have at least a point in seven in a row. ... Are 2-1 vs. Boston. ... Sidney Crosby has 14 goals in past 15 games.
Bruins: Have won five road games in row and are 1-0 on season-long, seven-game trip. ... Had top penalty killing in NHL, 86.4 percent, before Saturday.
Hidden stat: Penguins are 6-4-1 in second of back-to-back games; Bruins 6-5-2 in such games.
At 6 feet 4, 229 pounds and with good skating and shooting ability, Ponikarovsky is the kind of player who is at his best when he hangs a shingle out in front of the crease. That's what he was doing during a Penguins' power play in the third period, giving Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen a limited view of the ice when Sergei Gonchar's shot from center point that just missed to the right and bounced off the end boards to Ponikarovsky. He chipped it over Lehtonen's right pad for the final goal.
"[Lehtonen] didn't see the shot at all. It just happened to miss the net; otherwise it would have gone in," said Ponikarovsky. "Lucky me, it bounced back, and I just put it in."
Ponikarovsky was acquired late Tuesday night in exchange for forward Luca Caputi and defenseman Martin Skoula.
Because Toronto knew he would be traded, he sat out the Maple Leafs' game Tuesday. Because of work visa issues, he missed the game Thursday night against the New York Rangers. And because of the Olympics break, he had not played since Feb. 12.
"It's evident what Alexei can bring to the power play -- a big body that stays in front," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He had the great screen, and then he picks up the rebound for the goal.
"It's been a long time since he's played, so I'm sure he was getting his feet going and getting adjusted, but you could see those glimpses of what he can bring."
Ponikarovsky split time with Chris Kunitz on the first unit of the power play. At even strength, he played with center Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko.
"We talked a lot," said Malkin, a Russian-born player who now has two Ukrainian linemates. "He played good, got a goal, skated strong."
The goal was Ponikarovsky's 20th, giving him four NHL seasons with at least that many.
"I'm glad to have a win, and it's a great feeling to get a first goal in the first game," he said.
At 18:08 of the second period, Penguins winger Craig Adams and Dallas center Steve Ott engaged in a long, strenuous fight.
"I was definitely, definitely tired at the end," Adams said. "It was a good thing we had an intermission after that to recover."
Adams held his own in what might have been characterized as a mismatch favoring Ott based on reputations.
"Craig's a tough guy," Penguins winger Matt Cooke said. "He's probably one of the most physically fit guys on our team.
"It's not his job [to fight] -- it's totally his choice --but he's had a few this year where he's done really well. He can stand in there when it comes time."
The Penguins scratched winger Bill Guerin (back spasms) and defenseman Jay McKee. Guerin, who missed his second game in a row, said after the game he is unsure whether he will be able to play today against Boston. ... Malkin was held without a point, breaking a streak of 15 games that matched his career high. "My game was a little bit so-so, but my teammates played really well," said Malkin, who had nine goals and 24 points during the streak. ... In addition to Ponikarovsky getting his first goal with the Penguins, defenseman Jordan Leopold got his first point, an assist. He was acquired Monday in a trade with Florida. ... The Penguins wore their blue alternate-jersey uniforms for the final time this season and likely the final time, period. They are expected to unveil a different third jersey for next season. They were 8-3-1 this season in the blues.
First Published March 7, 2010 12:00 am