Playing a team thatâ€™s also in the middle of a stretch of three games in four nights, the Penguins got off to a strong start during Fridayâ€™s 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center.
It was key.
Forward Blake Comeau and defenseman Kris Letang scored within the first five minutes to stake the Penguins to a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish.
â€œI think it was really important considering they play three in four nights, considering their record when they score first,â€ Penguins coach Mike Johnston said.
Calgary, by the way, is 11-2-2 when scoring first. The Penguins are now 15-3-3 â€“ yes, theyâ€™ve scored first in 21 of 28 games, pretty impressive and the best in the league.
Itâ€™s actually the fourth time this season the Penguins have scored on their first shot of the game.
â€œMuch like a lot of teams in the league, when you score first, you really have an advantage. Itâ€™s huge,â€ Johnston said. â€œGetting a little extra momentum, a little extra edge early in the game is always a big plus.â€
Flames coach Bob Hartley agreed, although he had a different view of the start.
â€œWe had a tough start,â€ Hartley said. â€œWe knew against a team like the Penguins theyâ€™ll make you pay for it.â€
And in the process won their eighth consecutive game over the Flames.
Forward Jayson Megna didnâ€™t help the Penguinsâ€™ cause. He was whistled for four penalties and didnâ€™t see the ice after the last one, early in the third period.
â€œI thought ‘Megs,’ on probably two of them he probably took a bad penalty,â€ Johnston said. â€œYou just canâ€™t do that in close, tight games like that.â€
Recent acquired Rob Klinkhammer did help the outcome, scoring his first goal in a Penguins sweater and delivering a team-high five hits.
â€œIâ€™m feeling a lot better,â€ Klinkhammer said. â€œIt takes some time. One or two practices is good. Itâ€™s a step in the right direction. The more ice I get with these guys the better itâ€™s going to feel.â€
With three days off and a few healthy players back, Letang â€“ one of those the Penguins got back â€“ knew it was important to start strong.
Which he did with a nifty deflection.
â€œWe had three days off, so we tried to get to our game as quick as we can,â€ Letang said. â€œPut the puck in deep. We had a good cycle. Obviously we capitalized with a few goals.â€
The other returner, forward Patric Hornqvist, finished with nine shot attempts, four on goal. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 of 27 shots to improve his record against Calgary to 6-1.
His game included a poke check on Paul Byron and a little clearing-of-the-crease on Markus Granlund.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Fleury said when asked about the Granlund encounter. â€œWas a little bored. Needed more action. He was in the crease.â€
Looks like forwardÂ Zach Sill will be out several weeks with an upper-body injury. Would expect the Penguins to call up a forward, or maybe two, Saturday for the game at Columbus.
Talk you from Nationwide Arena, the place with the Cannon.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,