This Time, Pens Rebound from Flat Start

Sidney Crosby’s non-hat trick Tuesday, at 16:16 of the third period against the Atlanta Thrashers, cost plenty of Penguins fans their hats. It cost his head coach a few dollars, too.

“My son’s friend threw his hat on the ice and I had to replace it after the game,” Dan Bylsma said. “[The shot] was tipped [by Matt Cooke] right away and, with Cookie’s reaction, we knew it was not a hat trick for Sid.

“It’s happened before and Sid’s had some time to go out and get the hat trick but, looking up at the clock, I thought, he’s not going to have too much time to be able to make those hats good. But we need that net-front presence by Cookie, and he gets the goal.”

Cooke, for his part, was willing to give the hat-tossing fans their money’s worth.

“[Crosby] told me that I tipped it and I said, ‘Yeah, I know,’” Cooke said. “The hats were already on the ice, and I said ‘Do you want it? I’ll give it to you.’ He said, ‘No, I don’t want it.’”

There’s not a whole lot left to say about Crosby, whose point streak reached 25 games with a two-goal, two-assist night. But there’s plenty to say about the Penguins, who inexplicably came out with their second flat start in as many games but, this time, found a way to rebound.

Pittsburgh’s woes started just 47 seconds in, when Evander Kane got Atlanta on the board, and continued as the Penguins got into penalty trouble, with three infractions leading to two two-man advantages for the Thrashers.

But Pittsburgh got out of the first with a 2-2 tie, thanks to some good work by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury – Atlanta outshot the Penguins, 15-11, in the frame – and two goals by Crosby.

“The first period wasn’t great for us,” said forward Craig Adams. “We had our moments – obviously, Sid was good and Flower was good – but that’s two games in a row we haven’t come out well in the first, and we need to be better.”

Some of the credit for that goes to Atlanta, Bylsma said.

“We talked before the game about the speed and the work ethic of their team, and they certainly showed us that right off the hop,” he said. “They had a number of chances going at our net and got results because of it. But we didn’t manage the puck well enough, and we didn’t get pucks behind their D the way we need to to play our game.

“The good part is, we adjusted and came out and played a much better second period.”

Did they ever. Pittsburgh outshot Atlanta 16-5 in the second and got a hardworking, shorthanded goal from Adams to take the lead. The Penguins added to their lead with three goals from three different players in the third, going on to a 6-3 win.

More important than the flurry of goals, Bylsma said, was that each of them came from his club dictating and playing the right way.

“The Craig Adams goal is a result of hard work by our PK, putting pressure up ice, and then we get the chance in front,” he said. “That was a big goal; it was a big point in the game because we had started to dictate in the second period, but that power play was a chance for them to get right back in it, and the way their power play was shooting the puck was pretty dangerous.

“Mark Letestu’s goal is applying pressure; we talk about puck pursuit and he gets the result of that and scores a pretty goal. The Chris Kunitz goal is a great play by Sid, but it’s also execution that’s going north; we have speed and support the puck, and we get in the offensive zone and go to the cage and get a great goal. But we get it because we’re applying pressure … and executing the way we expect and need to execute.”

One improvement the Penguins need to make if they hope to keep dictating is to stay out of the penalty box. The Thrashers had eight opportunities with the man-advantage Tuesday, though the Penguins’ top-ranked penalty kill was mostly up to the task, allowing just one power play goal to Dustin Byfuglien in the first and getting the shortie from Adams in the second.

“We get our reward most nights if we get a clean sheet and we kill off all the penalties,” Adams said. “Obviously we gave one up; I didn’t get the puck out and it ended up in our net. So, it was nice to get back even on that.”

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