New Castle News


March 6, 2012

NHL Hockey: Michalek’s goal boosts Pens past Phoenix

PITTSBURGH — By his own admission, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek doesn’t watch much film of opposing goalies.

The way Michalek figures it, he doesn’t get enough shots to worry about it.

Maybe he should start.

Michalek scored for the first time since October, Chris Kunitz added his 19th goal of the season, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 36 shots as the Penguins beat Phoenix 2-1 last night for their sixth straight win.

“He needs to do a little better with his mental preparation and in our scouting report and pretend we play Phoenix every night,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Michalek — who spent five seasons with the Coyotes before signing with Pittsburgh in 2010 — beat Mike Smith to the stick side, and Kunitz followed with a nearly identical shot just over three minutes later as the Penguins improved to 10-1 in their last 11 home games.

The Pittsburgh bench erupted when Michalek scored for just the second time this season, yet it was Fleury who continually lifted his teammates out of their seats.

Phoenix put the pressure on, especially in the final frantic minutes when a pair of late power plays kept Fleury busy. He was up to the task, winning his sixth straight start and earning his 35th win of the season, one behind Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for the NHL lead.

“He was our best player. He needed to be,” Bylsma said. “He has been real solid in there. The consistency with which he’s played has probably been the biggest thing for us.”

Ray Whitney scored his 21st goal for the Coyotes, but Phoenix dropped its third straight after going unbeaten in regulation in February to surge to the top of the Pacific Division.

Mike Smith recovered after a shaky start to finish with 26 saves, but couldn’t stop Phoenix’s longest slide since early December.

The skid started with home losses to Calgary and Columbus that kept the Coyotes from gaining breathing room at the top of the crowded Pacific, where four teams are separated by three points.

Though the Coyotes played much better against the Penguins than they did in a 5-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday, forward Radim Vrbata wasn’t in the mood to celebrate a moral victory.

“The last two home games, they were not the best we could play,” said Vrbata, who picked up the 200th assist of his career on Whitney’s goal. “We wanted to have better effort, and we did that, but it wasn’t enough to get points.”

The Coyotes worked the puck side-to-side across the ice trying to get Fleury out of position. His mobility allows him to gobble up space quickly, and at one point he charged out of the net to stuff Martin Hanzal on a breakaway.

Yet his most important play might have been one he didn’t make after watching teammate Matt Cooke crash into Smith at the other end of the ice.

Smith started punching Cooke as the forward laid on Smith’s stick. Soon the goal mouth was filled with players.

Not Fleury, who ignored pleas from the crowd to skate over and jump in. Instead he remained in his crouch 150 feet away. With veteran backup Brent Johnson out because of an illness, and only rookie Brad Thiessen on the bench, Fleury understands he can’t take any chances.

Fleury’s only hiccup came early in the third on Whitney’s 21st goal. Radim Vrbata slipped a pass from the corner to the front of the net and found Whitney, who easily slid a shot past the lunging goalie.

It was a rare misstep for Fleury, who held on in the third despite a pair of late power plays for the Coyotes.

“He’s been great all season long and he’s the reason why we’re up there in the standings,” Michalek said of Fleury. “We can rely on him every single night. They came at us hard. He made so many unbelievable saves.”

The Penguins needed every one to improve to 12-2-3 against Western Conference opponents. Fleury has stopped 163 of the last 168 shots he has faced, a .970 save percentage.

“It’s a one-goal game, and you wish one of those shots would get by,” Vrbata said. “He’s a good goalie. That’s his job to stop us.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Pens.jpg NHL Hockey: Jokinen leads Pens past struggling Kings

    Jonathan Quick’s Olympic goaltending audition for U.S. national team coach Dan Bylsma ended after three Pittsburgh goals in one rocky period.

    January 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • NHL Hockey: Crosby lifts Pens past Vancouver

    Sidney Crosby tied the score late in regulation and added the only goal in a shootout to rally the Pittsburgh Penguins past the slumping Vancouver Canucks 5-4 last night.

    January 8, 2014

  • penguins.jpg Penguins rally by weary Winnipeg, 6-5

    Evgeni Malkin scored twice in his return from injury and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-5 on Sunday afternoon.

    January 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pens.jpg NHL Hockey: Bruins snap skid against Pens with OT win

    The surging Boston Bruins said they weren’t fazed by Sidney Crosby’s last-second goal. They proved it in overtime. Torey Krug scored 34 seconds into OT and the Bruins beat Pittsburgh 4-3 yesterday night, snapping a seven-game, regular-season losing streak to the Penguins in a matchup of the Eastern Conference’s top two teams.

    November 26, 2013 1 Photo

  • Pens.jpg NHL Hockey: Pens erupt in third to down Ducks

    When Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma shuffled the lines in search of a spark for his slumping offense, putting Evgeni Malkin and rookie Brian Gibbons on the ice together wasn’t what he had in mind. Still, he’ll take it.

    November 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • NHL Hockey: Colorado shuts down Crosby, Pens

    Sidney Crosby left little doubt about who remains the best player from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. That’s fine by Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche. At the moment, they’ll settle for one of the best records in the NHL.

    October 22, 2013

  • NHL Hockey: Crosby, Pens stay hot, drop Oilers 3-2

    Evgeni Malkin stood in the right circle just watching the play unfold in front of him when the puck suddenly materialized on his stick with nary a soul around. The empty net never had a chance.

    October 16, 2013

  • Penguins Hockey: Crosby, Fleury lead Pittsburgh past Devils

    The Pittsburgh Penguins stuck with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the offseason, convinced two straight playoff meltdowns have not robbed the former Stanley Cup winner of his confidence. The early returns are promising.

    October 4, 2013

  • Kunitz.jpg Pens sign Kunitz to three-year extension

    Sidney Crosby will keep at least one linemate around for the long haul. The Pittsburgh Penguins and forward Chris Kunitz agreed to a three-year contract extension on Thursday that could keep him playing alongside Crosby until the 2016-17 season.

    June 28, 2013 1 Photo

  • Pens.jpg Eastern Conference Finals: Bruins sweep Pens out of playoffs

    The Bruins defense shut down the potent Pittsburgh Penguins throughout the Eastern Conference finals. Then a Boston defenseman scored the goal that sealed the stunning sweep.

    June 8, 2013 1 Photo

House Ads

Are you concerned enough about the Heartbleed bug on the Internet to change all of your social media and website passwords?

Yes. It’s always a good idea to change passwords regularly anyway. I just have so many, I’m not sure where to start.
No. From what I’ve read, companies are still trying to figure out how to fix the flaw. The bad guys will just have access to my NEW passwords, too.
Not sure, but I blame Al Gore. He invented the Internet, right? How’s he going to get us out of this mess?
     View Results