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Pens-Predators In-Game Blog

Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 6:30 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Pens-Predators In-Game Blog



PENGUINS 5, PREDATORS 1

PENS CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT






0:00: That'll do it, guys. Pens clinch a playoff spot by winning their ninth straight home game with a 5-1 triumph over the Preds.

9:21: Fleury has made 24 of 25 saves while Rinne has allowed five goals on 22 shots. Fleury would tie his career high of 40 wins with a victory tonight. Pens are doing a great job defensively despite being down to five D-men with Niskanen out.

14:20: Neal notched his fourth assist of the night on Malkin's goal. It's Neal's first career four-assist night in the NHL. His four points tie his single game career high.

     "Malkin is ridiculous nasty. #pens"

                                                           @Deaf143J

     "Malkin Very Precise #MVP"
                                                           @BMoran334

17:57: Malkin scores his second goal of the night when he carries down the side of the ice, winds up from the circle and absolutely snipes one far side, top corner. As my boss Sam just said, "Talk about eye of the needle precision." The MVP chants rings out even louder this time! PENS 5, PREDS 1

18:51: Pens are back to full strength. As the penalty expired, the Preds got a re-direct chance that nearly beat Fleury, but he's able to stay with it and make the save.

20:00: Pens will start the period with 1:04 left on the penalty to Crosby. Niskanen is not on the bench for the start of the period. Puck drops. Game on!


(Getty Images)





Radulov scored in his first NHL game since 2008 when he stuffed home a rebound in the slot to end Fleury's shutout bid. But it didn't make much of a dent in the 4-0 lead the Pens had built up to that point with second-period goals from Cooke and Kunitz. The tone did seem to get a bit chippier and the physicality seemed to escalate, but the pace was still fast.

- Matt Niskanen did not play the final 9:01 of the period. The Pens have not provided an update on his status.
- James Neal has quietly tallied assists on three of the four Pens goals.
- Neal now has points in 6 of his last 7 games.





0:00: First 40 minutes in the books. Pens have a 4-1 lead. Preds have a 19-16 edge in shots.

0:56: Crosby to the box for high sticking. Pens to the PK against the NHL's No. 1-ranked PP.

1:38: Now Bylsma has put quite the formidable trio on the ice: Neal, Crosby and Malkin. Yikes.

3:00: Staal is out centering Cooke and Kennedy. Bylsma has been tinkering with his lines at certain points throughout the game.

7:59: Radulov scores in his first game back in the NHL after four seasons in the KHL. He collects a rebound just outside the blue paint and slams it home. The Preds had been knocking at the door these last few shifts, missing open nets and hitting posts. PENS 4, PREDS 1

     "Not only do we have the 2 best players in the world but the best tendy in the #NHL #MAF29 #PENS
"
                                                           @Dshots88

10:20: Preds opt to use their timeout. We'll get a short break here.

12:00: Wow. Engelland angles Andrei Kostitsyn into the boards with a crushing check. Perfect gap by Engo on the play.

12:14: Kunitz wires a puck toward the net that deflects off Weber's skate and into the open cage! Crosby made that play happen as he was driving hard to the net, forcing Weber to cover him. Kunitz was trying to pass to Sid and got a lucky deflection. PENS 4, PREDS 0

14:19: Erat gets a lane down the side of the ice to bear down on Fleury, but the Pens netminder makes a sprawling save on the Preds forward.

17:40: Letang just returned to the bench. Cue the huge sigh of relief.

     "Matt Cooke has been on a roll lately with the Pens. He really has changed his game this year. #GOPENSGO"

                                                           @RockHardDieHard

18:02: Neal and Cooke break behind the Preds D and go in on a virtual 2-on-0 (with Kevin Klein hustling to try and get back). Neal backhands a pass to Cooke as Rinne goes down, and all Cookie has to do is slide it into the open net. PENS 3, PREDS 0

19:21: Martin Erat runs into Letang in the corner of the Pens D zone away from the puck and catches him knee-to-knee. Letang instantly goes down and then gingerly skates to the bench. He goes straight down the runway. We'll keep you posted on his status.

20:00: Puck drops. Game on. Second period is underway.





Radulov's return was overshadowed by two early goals from Pittsburgh that has put Nashville in a 2-0 hole. Malkin got on the board just 1:23 into the opening frame when his slapshot sneaked over the glove of goalie Pekka Rinne. Then just under three minutes later, Dupuis scored his 22nd of the season by deflecting a Kris Letang shot. The rest of the period went by in a blur, with both teams playing a fast-paced, up-tempo brand of hockey.

- Dupuis' point streak extends to a career-high 8 games. He has 7 goals and 3 assists in that span
- Malkin now has goals in five straight games. He has 6 goals and 7 assists in a 6-game point streak.
- Radulov played 5:08 in the first period. Aside from being a minus-1, his stat line is clean.





0:00: That'll do it for the first. Pens have a 2-0 lead on goals from Malkin and Dupuis. Preds have a 10-8 edge in shots.

0:33: And now Malkin is going off for tripping. We'll skate 4-on-4 the rest of the period.

0:58: Weber to the box with just under a minute left for interference. Pens to the PP!

1:41: After an extended shift in the Pens' own end, Pittsburgh breaks it out and Kennedy gets another quality chance, this time from smack dab in the middle of the slot.

3:34: Really great tempo to this one. The teams are going back and forth at quite a fast pace.

7:23: Kennedy looks for his third goal in two games but is denied when his shot rings off the post!

     "Penguins are hunting Predators. Five minutes in, & it's already OH MY GOD MALKIN & PASCAL, YOU RASCAL."

                                                           @CouchPenguin

9:27: Once the Pens clear after that barraging of the net, Malkin gets a one-timer chance near the backdoor but Rinne kicks it aside!

10:38: Mad scramble in front of the Pens net. A puck goes through the crease with Fleury down after making a save, but luckily no Pred is able to corral it.

     "Barely started and the #pens are already firing on all engines"
                                                           @dotSpec

15:54: Dupuis fires a pass to Letang at the point from behind the net and hustles to the front of the net. 'Tanger' has the time and space to fire a shot that deflects off the shaft of Dupuis' stick and re-directs into the cage past Rinne! PENS 2, PREDS 0

16:39: Neal, Kunitz and Malkin string together some pretty passes to enter the zone and get a shot on Rinne, but he drops down and covers this one.

     "MVP chants for Evgeni Malkin following his knuckle-puck goal #Preds #Pens"
                                                           @DailyFaceoff

18:37: Malkin barrels down the side of the ice, goes 1-on-1 with D-man Jack Hillen and winds up for a slapshot around the Preds blueliner. Rinne misjudges the elevation of the shot, and it tags the top of his glove before falling into the net! "MVP!" chants ring out around CONSOL Energy Center after the score! PENS 1, PREDS 0

20:00: Pens starting Sullivan-Crosby-Staal up top and Orpik-Michalek on D. Preds are starting Radulov with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist up top and Shea Weber-Ryan Suter on D. Puck drops. Game on!


(Getty Images)



7:00 PM:
Pens scratch Vitale, Tangradi, Jeffrey, Lovejoy and Johnson. Official line combos...

Cooke-Crosby-Kennedy
Sullivan-Staal-Dupuis
Kunitz-Malkin-Neal
Asham-Park-Adams

Orpik-Michalek
Martin-Letang
Niskanen-Engelland

Fleury in goal. Rinne in net for the Preds.



6:30 PM:
The Pens can clinch a playoff spot tonight by earning at least one point vs. the Preds OR if the Caps lose to the Flyers in regulation. This has been confirmed by the NHL.

Note: For fans in the States that want to watch the game and aren't in Pittsburgh or Nashville, the game is being televised on NHL Network in the U.S.



6:15 PM:
Good evening everyone! The Pens are preparing to battle the Nashville Predators here at CONSOL Energy Center (they're the last team to make their first trip to this beautiful building). The Preds proved they're in it to win it this year by being the NHL's busiest team at the trade deadline, and now they've just added a gamebreaking talent in Russian sniper Alexander Radulov. The 25-year-old will make his return to the NHL tonight with Nashville after leaving the Preds back in 2008 (who drafted him 15th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft) to play four seasons in the KHL.

Radulov's return is the biggest storyline of tonight's game. But another notable aspect is that Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne will be going head-to-head between the pipes. The two goalies are tied for the NHL lead with 39 wins apiece, and a victory tonight will tie Fleury's career high set in 2006-07, which is the second-highest total in franchise history behind Tom Barrasso (43, 1992-93).

To catch up on all of the game-day coverage (including interviews with Radulov and Preds coach Barry Trotz), visit today's edition of the Pens Report.

---

Since we're playing Nashville, which is called "Music City" and is the hub of the country music industry, I thought it'd be fun to start today's blog with a country song.

I asked the followers of my and Sam's Twitter handle (@PensInsideScoop) for their favorites, since I enjoy country (especially during the summer months) but don't listen to it very often, so I needed some help – and the response we got was awesome!!! Here were some of the most popular suggestions...

Toby Keith - Red Solo Cup
Jason Aldean - Dirt Road Anthem
Zac Brown Band - Chicken Fried
Dierks Bentley - Am I The Only One

People also mentioned other songs by those artists as well as Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Craig Morgan, Johnny Cash, George Strait...the list goes on! And this tweet from @lyssabee64 sums up another request I got from many people...

     "@PensInsideScoop it would be really fitting to play a Carrie Underwood song since @mikefisher1212 is married to her!"

                                                           @lyssabee64

But as @stephni_c pointed out...

     "Maybe don't play any Carrie Underwood as she is cheering for the other side!"
                                                           @stephni_c

So with that being said, I'm going to start tonight's blog with Jake Owen's "Barefoot Blue Jean Night." It was the most requested and, like many of you pointed out, Pens captain Sidney Crosby has said this is one of his favorite songs. So enjoy.

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