Matt Cooke can trash talk with the best of them, but with time dwindling down in a 1-1 game with the rival Philadelphia Flyers, he dealt his most stinging retort with his stick instead of his mouth.
The Penguins played a solid road game against their cross-state rivals and secured two big points in the ultra-tight Eastern Conference playoff race. After allowing a bloated 3.9 goals against average in their previous 10 games, the Pens righted the ship in their own end.
Whether it was Sergei Gonchar taking a punishing hit from a steamrolling forechecker to clear the zone or Tyler Kennedy swooping in undetected to snatch the puck off an opposing players stick on the backcheck, the Penguins made a concerted and collective effort to eliminate the mistakes that have plagued them recently on the defensive side.
They were far from perfect on the day, giving the offensively gifted Flyers numerous power play opportunities, but their work on the penalty kill, they killed off 8-of-9 power plays, coupled with the strong play of goaltender Brent Johnson, 27 saves on 28 shots, helped the Penguins grind out the win in a hostile environment against their fiercest divisional foe.
Another long-lost friend paid a visit to the Wachovia Center on Sunday along with the defense. The power play accounted for both Pittsburgh goals, and the Pens finished the contest 2-for-6 with the man advantage.
Shooting the puck and getting traffic in front of the net, both of which the power play units sometimes seem to avoid like the plague, were the simple yet effective keys to getting a couple of pucks past an otherwise efficient Ray Emery.
The rare parts of the game that were played at even strength saw the Penguins withstand the physical challenge that was literally and figuratively thrown at them by the Flyers.
They battled back with some abrasive play of their own and carried the play for large chunks of 5-on-5 hockey.
At the end of the day, winning the special teams battle, limiting defensive miscues, and sticking to their aggressive puck possession style of play resulted in a W for the Pens.
Quite beautiful in its simplicity.....here is to a lot more "simple" hockey for the boys from the Burgh.
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