Every once in a while Chris Kunitz plays like he's a top-line winger worth $3.75 million a year. And sometimes Sidney Crosby plays like he's trying to remind us that we should stop crushing on Steven Stamkos. Both things happened Friday night against Carolina, and that was enough for a 5-4 shootout win at Consol.
- Sid had it all going on Friday. He just exploded past Eric Staal to create the 3-on-1 that led to a ridiculous goal mouth pass to Tyler Kennedy for a tap-in. Crosby's positioning on the game's second goal, where he banged home a rebound from the high slot, was perfect. Not many guys have ever been able to skate and pass like Crosby on one occasion, and make like Tim Kerr on another. By the time the shootout came around, Crosby looked almost bored as he pulled his patented, "I'm going to stick-handle so rapidly you'll have no idea where this is going" wrist shot. He was five points behind Stamkos coming into the game, and don't think he wasn't aware of that, as well as all the chatter this week about his new rival. Now he's one point back, and he may ask Dan Bylsma to put Mike Rupp on his line in place of Kunitz just to make things more challenging.
- Kunitz did much more than score two goals last night. He was skating well and punishing people on the forecheck. He helped that first line "tilt the ice" against Eric Staal's unit, and, as Bob Errey pointed out in the first period, that is Coach Dan Bylsma's prescription for the Penguins "gettin' to their game." As for the controversial game-winning goal by Kunitz, the Canes and Paul Maurice were probably right to raise hell over it. It would have helped if the on-ice official bothered to explain the call, rather than just pronouncing it a "good goal." You know, like how the big boy leagues explain instant replay decisions, right or wrong.
- Not to be ignored is that the Pens had a terrible start to this game and are lucky it didn't get away from them early. The Canes were all over the puck, and nobody bothered to backcheck on Brandon Sutter's first period goal. The Pens also played poorly in overtime. Brutal turnovers by Alex Goligoski and Mark Letestu, who were both trying to force the puck to Geno, almost gave us a different headline this morning. Going into the game, Pittsburgh led the league in limiting shots per game, but that's a pretty meaningless statistic as long as the shots they do allow come off of such monumental defensive breakdowns.
- As bad as our power play is, the Carolina penalty killing is worse (28th in the league). Take whatever positives you saw last night for what they're worth.
- We've been quick to credit Kris Letang for his Norris Trophy-caliber early season performance, but in the interest of being fair and balanced, he did not play well last night.
- That is, until the shootout. Backhand roof job. Then you knew Sid would score. And you also knew Jussi Jokinen would try to pull a Forsberg to keep Carolina alive. MAF was expecting it.
- Geno Malkin scored his 400th point last night in his 329th regular season game. His 1.21 points-per-game average currently puts him 13th on the all-time list, just ahead of Guy Lafleur [Ed. note: somebody check my math]. The top 13 all-time also includes Mario Lemieux (1.883), Sidney Crosby (1.375), and Jaromir Jagr (1.256). This Thursday, give thanks that you're a Penguin fan.
- Before the first period intermission, I found myself wondering how things went with the Alyssa Milano meet-and-greet prior to the game. How many creepy, older men were in attendance? Was Milano wearing a Rob Brown jersey? Dan Potash wasted no time at the break before giving us the live interview we'd been waiting for. The "Hollywood starlet," as Paul Stiegerwald calls her, told Danny P. she created a clothing line for the "lady female fans," leading to this awkward exchange between Steiggy and Errey:
Errey: "You know she dated my old linemate Robbie Brown."
Steiggy: "I remember. She's looking great, is she not Bob."
Errey: "Yeah. I think that's great stuff, I do. Not that I'd wear it, Steiggy, but, you know, it's good stuff. Good stocking stuffers."
Steiggy: "Heh, heh."
Steiggy: "Heh, heh."
Steiggy, Bobby, that's getting to your game.