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Notebook: Conner's Speed Grounds Wings

Tuesday, 01.18.2011 / 10:56 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Notebook: Conner\'s Speed Grounds Wings
Speed kills. Just ask Chris Conner.

With 11:31 left in the first, Conner used his explosive speed to rush to the Detroit net and was hauled down en route by Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl.

No penalty was called on the play, as Conner was able to one-arm a shot at the cage.

But exactly three minutes later in a similar play, Conner not only drew a penalty, he earned a penalty shot after getting pulled down by Kris Draper on his way to the net, after a great pass from Kris Letang found the Penguins forward speeding up the ice.

With the crowd roaring, Conner deked to his backhand and nimbly slipped the puck under Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald.

“The adrenaline was going a little bit,” Conner said when he learned he was getting the shot. “It felt good, and it felt good that it went in. I kind of knew what I was going to do the whole time going in, just got to execute and make it work.”

Conner’s score marked the Penguins’ first goal on a penalty shot in four years, with the last one being scored on Jan. 20, 2007 against Toronto by Jarkko Ruutu.

This was the fifth Penguins’ penalty shot of the 2010-11 campaign. They had missed on the previous 12 attempts.

No one alerted Conner of that stat, which he said was for the best in an already pressure-packed situation.

“No one brought it to my attention. I’m glad they didn’t tell me before that,” he laughed.

While players like Letang and Sidney Crosby are usually head coach Dan Bylsma’s go-to guys in shootout situations, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the best authorities on the sniper skills of his teammates after facing them in practice every day.

He had the utmost confidence that Conner would connect on his attempt.

“I see him a lot in practice and he’s got good skills and he’s very fast,” Fleury said. “So I was confident he would score that goal.”

While Conner’s goal in such a pressure-filled situation was quite a feat, Bylsma was more impressed with his speed and determination that drew the penalty shot.

“Every player adds something different, and he adds it with his speed there,” he said. “On one (breakaway) he’s flat-footed, and he still gets his feet moving and goes to the net. And they have to make a diving play on him to stop him from getting a chance. Then he makes another effect on the game with the speed up the middle of the ice and draws the penalty shot.

“We need players to have an effect on the game – especially when you’re talking about third and fourth line players. And Chris has done it with his speed, and he does it continually. We saw it in the scoring chances and also on the forecheck and buzzing in the offensive zone.”


FLOWER POWER
Fleury put up yet another impressive performance between the pipes for the Penguins on Tuesday after making a season-high 44 stops on Jan. 15 at Boston.

Fleury made 36 stops in the Penguins’ 4-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday to earn his 21st win of the season.

He had to be sharp right off the bat, as Henrik Zetterberg came within inches of scoring just 45 seconds into the game.

That early scoring chance by a squad like the Red Wings didn’t worry Fleury at all. Instead, it got him even more pumped to play.

“I like to get some shots quick,” he said. “And stopping guys like (Zetterberg) is
always fun.”

After that opportunity, the Wings proceeded to have a relatively slow first period, where the Penguins controlled the majority of play and kept the puck out of their zone with solid defensive play.

But Detroit re-emerged in the second when they got two quick power plays.

As soon as Matt Cooke got out of the box for tripping less than five minutes into the period. Chris Kunitz headed to the sin bin for hooking just 72 seconds after Cooke’s release.

The Red Wings got four shots with the man-advantage and a total of 12 in the period. But Fleury came up big every time.

“Guys played well in the defensive zone and got the puck out pretty quick,” he said. “Guys were blocking shots and we got some big goals up front. The PK was good also. It did a great job and it gave us some momentum after it.”

He went on to make 12 saves in the third to get the win for his team.

“(We) played a good sixty minutes and didn’t give them too much,” Fleury said.
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