The Pittsburgh Penguins took seven out of a possible eight points from their western Canada road trip that ended in Calgary on Monday night. Sidney Crosby and the Pens took down the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and suffered a shootout loss to the Calgary Flames, who have won ten straight games.
The Penguins sit one point behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan division with a record of 43-16-9. The Pens are 5-0-1 in their last six games, with the power play being the spark plug for the group. The unit of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Phil Kessel, and Justin Schultz capitalized on 7 of 21 power play opportunities, good for 33.3%.
The road trip began with a wild game in Winnipeg as the Penguins and Jets met for the first time since their meeting back in Pittsburgh, when Evgeni Malkin had a questionable hit on Jets captain Blake Wheeler. Malkin and Wheeler dropped the mitts, setting the tone for the game. Nick Bonino’s hat trick propelled the Pens to a 7-4 victory.
Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins took care of the Edmonton Oilers in a star-studded affair between superstars Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. The two generational talents made their presence felt, as McDavid scored the game-tying goal to even the score at two. Crosby and McDavid both scored in the shootout, before Phil Kessel blasted one over the glove of Cam Talbot to give the Penguins the shootout win.
Playing less than 24 hours later, the Penguins shifted their focus to the Vancouver Canucks, where rookie Matt Murray got the shutout in a 3-0 win. Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary, and Jake Guentzel took control of the game with their explosive speed and great puck protection down low. The line combined for six points, with goals by Conor Sheary and rookie Jake Guentzel. Mike Sullivan’s club suffered another injury, as Carl Hagelin blocked a shot and is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks.
The Penguins ended the road trip in Calgary, where they met the red-hot Flames in a battle of speed and skill. The line of Crosby, Sheary, and Guentzel continued to impress, as they each picked up two more points. Flames goaltender Brian Elliot shut the door in the shootout, giving the Flames their tenth straight victory in a 4-3 shootout win.
The Pittsburgh Penguins ended the road trip with a record of 3-0-1, an exceptional result, considering the club is missing eight players due to injury. With injuries to key players such as Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist, and Carl Hagelin, depth players have stepped up in a big way. With playoffs right around the corner, health is a concern for the defending champions, who look to repeat for the first time since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.