New Castle News


December 24, 2011

NHL Hockey: Big third period leads Penguins past Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — James Neal saw his goal almost before he scored it. Definitely before Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec did anyway.

His score 22 seconds into the third period put Pittsburgh ahead and the Penguins scored two more goals in the final 20 minutes to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 Friday night.

"When you're playing with that confidence and you're playing with that attitude, you do visualize," Neal said. "When I get the puck on my stick, I know exactly where I'm going to put it. I try to get it off as quick as I can."

Neal's team-leading 20th goal of the season was followed by goals from Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis within the first 5 minutes of the period. Joe Vitale also scored, Chris Kunitz had a pair of assists and Marc-Andre Fleury had to make only 18 saves for Pittsburgh, which won its third straight.

A diving Evgeni Malkin managed to slide the puck to Neal, who calmly beat Pavelec from right in front.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma caused a stir when he showed up behind the Penguins bench wearing a festive green sweater featuring a Christmas tree and a reindeer.

"It seemed to get a nice reaction from the fans," Bylsma said.

The loss concluded Winnipeg's six-game homestand, which included three games in four nights. They went 3-2-1 during that span.

The Jets were coming off a 4-0 win over Montreal on Thursday.

"I don't think it was work ethic that was the problem," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "There was fatigue, there was some things about some guys that didn't have legs much ... I thought there was some things that happen when you play this many games."

Alexander Burmistrov scored midway through the second period and Pavelec stopped 35 shots for the Jets. Winnipeg finished its six-game homestand with a 3-2-1 record.

Jets forward Jim Slater had a great scoring chance early in the first, scooping up a turnover and breaking in alone on Fleury with a shot that clanged off the cross bar.

Vitale put in a rebound at 13:39 of the first to record his second goal of the season.

While the Jets spent a lot of time in the Pittsburgh zone, they couldn't get many shots on net and were outshot 14-5 in the first period.

"I think we competed, it's just we weren't mentally sharp as we needed to be, passing up some shooting opportunities," Jets left winger Tanner Glass said. "They play a pretty sound defensive game and to compete with those guys you've got to be sharp mentally."

Burmistrov tied it 1-all on Winnipeg's eighth shot of the game when Blake Wheeler sent a nice pass to him as he streaked through the left circle.

Wheeler now has five goals and 13 assists in his last 17 games.

Evgeni Malkin and Kunitz assisted on Neal's goal, extending both Malkin's and Neal's points' streaks to seven games. Malkin has six goals and 10 assists during that span, including three goals and six assists in his last three games. Neal has six goals and three assists during his streak.

Staal scored his 10th of the season on the power play at 4:14 of the third, followed 40 seconds later by Dupuis' goal.

Notes: The Jets are 0-7-0 this season when trailing after the first period. ... The game was the second of four meetings this season between the clubs. Winnipeg won the first game 2-1 on Oct. 17. ... Pittsburgh D Deryk Engelland began serving a three-game suspension for his Tuesday hit on Chicago's Marcus Kruger.

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