The Pittsburgh Penguins had one of the most intriguing weeks an NHL team could have this past week and we are not even past the first week of 2015. Through the four games they played from December 29 to January 3 the Penguins produced about as even hockey as a team could in one week. Last week the Pens went 2-2-0 and were barely outscored by a combined goal total of 11-10. However, events surrounding the Penguins this past week were more interesting than the banal stats in the last sentence indicate. Here’s a recap of the week:
December 29: Fight Night in Jersey
Monday night was obviously a night that New Jersey Devils fans and players had been waiting for since December 2 when Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo leveled Devils star Jaromir Jagr late in the second period of that game. The next day Bortuzzo received a two game suspension for the hit. (Here is the NHL player safety video explaining the suspension)
Bortuzzo served the suspension and on Monday night he received a plethora of punches and a black eye from New Jersey forward Jordin Tootoo after Tootoo exacted revenge for the hit on Jagr, twice. In my opinion, the first fight was “acceptable” within the terms of hockey fights and settling scores and it might have helped to shift momentum as the Devils scored just two minutes after the fight. The second fight seemed slightly “unfair” and borderline excessive as Bortuzzo never appeared to fully regain his balance before being engaged by Tootoo who began his barrage of punches immediately after contacting Bortuzzo.
However not everyone felt the same as the Devils once again scored just two minutes after this second fight and Tootoo was also awarded the “Third Star of the Game” with a stat line of 10 penalty minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists, +/- of -1, and 0 shots in his 2:36 minutes on the ice. The Devils went on to win the game 3-1. Not the best start to the week for Bortuzzo or the Penguins.
December 31: Auld Lang Syne in Pittsburgh
The Penguins spent New Year’s Eve battling the Carolina Hurricanes. After the ‘Canes took the early lead the Penguins tied the game at one by the end of the first period. The game remained tough and tied through the 2nd and late into the 3rd period. But as the end of the game, and the end of the year, approached Penguins’ forwards Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter hearkened back to Sutter’s last dramatic game winning goal and connected one last time to send the year 2014 out in style for CONSOL Energy Center. Sure it was not as dramatic as Sutter’s last game winner via an assist from Bennett, which was in Game 1 of the opening round of the 2014 playoffs, but it certainly ended the year on a great note for the Penguins.
January 2: Thunder, Lightning and Tossed Cookies?
Friday could not have been more strange and strangely exciting for the Pittsburgh Penguins. First came the thunder as two news stories leaked at roughly the same time:
Fight between Craig Adams and Evgeni Malkin this morning. Johnston still running interference between the two.
— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) January 2, 2015
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 2, 2015
If the news that Evgeni Malkin and Craig Adams fought during their Friday morning skate around did not shock Penguins fans, the news of the acquisition of forward David Perron from the Edmonton Oilers certainly did. The deal sent the one month Penguin Rob Klinkhammer, who played his last two games in Pittsburgh on the fourth line, and a 1st round pick off to Edmonton in return for top six forward in Perron who notched 28 goals and 29 assists last season. Penguins fans, and to be truthful even Perron himself, appeared thrilled and overwhelmingly positive about this signing, which makes sense as the Penguins clearly needed another top six forward and Klinkhammer produced just 1 goal and 2 assists in his 10 games in Pittsburgh.
And if this was not enough entertainment for just one day, the Penguins got even more great news:
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 2, 2015
Steve Downie’s return seemed to provide the spark the Penguins needed as they faced off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night. The Penguins just looked smoother on Friday and early on they played what appeared to be a complete game for the first time in awhile. The Penguins got off an early 2-0 lead, but the strangeness of the day continued as just past the midway point of the 1st period referee Mike Leggo tossed his cookies on the ice. Just one minute after play resumed Evgeni Malkin netted the Penguins third goal of the night and by this point Penguins fans were ecstatic about anything and everything.
So excited that I got to see a ref vomit in person!!! Oh and 3 goals so far!!! #Penguins
— B. Moore (@bammmies) January 3, 2015
Thank you Craig Adams Face for waking up this #Penguins team
— Pitt Family 4 Life (@togatogatoga87) January 3, 2015
The Lightning fought back though and got the game within one goal, at 4-3, midway through the 3rd, which was answered just 34 seconds later with this outstanding goal by none other than Steve Downie.
Downie closed the game with an empty net goal, earning him the “First Star of the Game” and capping off a very strange, yet exciting day in Pittsburgh.
January 3: Perron in Pittsburgh
David Perron did not play in the Friday night game for Pittsburgh, but was in the lineup on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens. Pittsburgh appeared disjointed on Saturday night. Whether that was due to the tough fore check from the Canadiens or to some questionable calls, or no calls, is unclear, but they did not move the puck as easily as they did the night before. Montreal went up 2-0 early in the 1st period and then the Penguins new addition provided some fireworks for his new city. Perron drove home an amazing pass from Sidney Crosby to pull the Penguins within one. Unfortunately for the city of Pittsburgh it was not their night, as not only did the Penguins give up two more goals and lost 4-1, the Steelers were bounced from the NFL playoffs by their rival the Baltimore Ravens.
I believe that it is safe to say that there will not be another week like this for the Pittsburgh Penguins for some time to come. However, it is only the first week of the new year and these are the Penguins, so anything could happen.