The game plan was to generate second- and third-chance opportunities against Colorado goaltender Calvin Pickard, a rookie playing his 11th NHL game.
The Penguins followed the game plan perfectly and wound up with a season-high 48 shots on goal. Only one small problem: They couldn’t get one to go in; only No. 48 found its way through.
That was when defenseman Rob Scuderi took a shot from the left point, Evgeni Malkin tipped the puck, and Blake Comeau swatted home the rebound for his 11th goal of the season, his 10th at home, at 2:24 of overtime.
It’s been a rejuvenating season for Comeau, who was acquired in the offseason via free agency after two down years with Columbus.
“We had lots of chances, lots of pucks around the net,” Comeau said. “It just seemed like we couldn’t get any. It was definitely a nice feeling to get that one.”
Some numbers to pass along:
>>Scuderi has three assists over his past five games. Dead serious there.
>>Malkin’s assist extended his scoring streak to six games, his third of that length this season. He has points in 26 of the Penguins’ 31 games (84 percent).
>>Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is earning a shutout once every four times out – six shutouts in 24 starts. If he makes 60 starts this season, Fleury would have 15 shutouts. Obviously the pace is insane, but that’s how good he’s been playing.
I asked coach Mike Johnston what’s up with Fleury that he has six shutouts through 31 of his team’s games. The answer was kind of not good yet still kind of funny.
“I don’t really know other than that he’s a really good goaltender,” Johnston said.
>>Johnston talked more in depth about why he likes forward Bryan Rust so much, and I thought the answer was interesting. Think back to the one-timer from the slot off a feed from Andrew Ebbett Monday against Tampa Bay.
“I really like his stick,” Johnston said. “I think he has a very good stick. What I mean by that is when the puck is on his stick, he can make a play quickly. He can get a shot away quickly, as you saw him score the goal.”
Johnston admitted he was trying Rust with better players – he’s seen shifts with Malkin and Sidney Crosby the past two games – to gauge his offensive upside, which Johnston views to be considerably high.
“I’m trying to put him with some players who can make plays, to see where he can get to,” Johnston said. “Tonight in overtime, I put him out there, and I really thought he helped create that goal. He made the hit in the corner, kept the puck alive in the zone, made the change – Geno got on – then Geno and Comeau got the goal together.”
I wrote Fleury for Friday’s paper, but I just as easily could have written Comeau, the Offseason Acquisition of the Millennium. His 11 goals are as many as he had the previous three years combined.
He’s become a regular with Malkin, a role that I wouldn’t change when the Penguins start to get reinforcements back healthy or a trade is made.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of confidence back this year to go make plays,” Comeau said. “Obviously there’s going to be mistakes made, but I don’t feel like if I make one mistake the opportunity is going to be taken away.”
Club practices at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Consol Energy Center. Be GRATEFUL to each other.