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Behind Adams, Pens hold off Winnipeg

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 9:54 p.m.
The Penguins' Craig Adams, center, celebrates his goal with teammate Tanner Glass (10) on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, rear, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Much as the Penguins love Craig Adams, they aren't shy about messing with him.

A few minutes before faceoff Friday at MTS Centre, some teammates began a bit of poking in the visitors' room.

Not the obvious material, either. You know, those zero goals lingering on his ledger.

“We were talking about how he never makes the highlight reels,” winger James Neal recalled. “Just about how none of his goals are pretty.”

Highlights?

Alas, that would hold true through the Penguins' 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets that followed, for all that Adams managed to contribute was two goals — a multi-attempt tap-in and an empty-netter — as well as a fight to defend a teammate, a voracious forecheck that drew a late Winnipeg penalty and … well, pretty much all the rest of his nightly repertoire.

That was plenty enough, as it turned out, to sway the judges.

“Yeah, he really stuck it to us,” Neal said with a playful sigh. “And that's just great, really. I look up to Craig, what he does, everything he brings. He brings it every night. It's good to see him rewarded.”

Fact is, there isn't much that's pretty to Adams, from his style to the black rings often circling his eyes. Except if you ask those who watch and work with him on a daily basis.

During the lockout, even as he was flying about the continent to represent his teammates in the players' union, he also was invariably last off the ice at Southpointe, often performing relentless wind sprints to nary a witness.

“It's hard to say how much Craig means to our team with everything he does,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said after contributing plenty of his own in stopping 25 of 26 shots. “With the penalty-killing, the way he finishes checks, the way he sticks up for us … we were very happy to see this.”

Not nearly as much as Adams, right?

“If I had more nights like this, I'd make a better living,” he said, somehow stifling a grin. “No, this was good. It's fun. Everybody likes to score goals.”

Adams' first goal, 3:19 after the opening draw, required two cracks at the puck from the lip of the crease — at least by his count — with a kick, then a stick in finally poking it past Ondrej Pavelec.

“I'll take it,” Adams said.

Highlight judge?

“It was good,” Neal said. “It went in.”

Adams' next contribution involved even less finesses. Five minutes into the second period, Winnipeg's James Wright shoved the Penguins' Matt Niskanen into the boards, his knee crashing hard enough to cost him a shift. No call was made, but Adams wasn't waiting for an arm to go up. His gloves came off, and he and Wright engaged in a spirited duel.

“I didn't really see what happened on the hit,” Adams said. “I just saw Nisky down and in pain, and I reacted.”

The next came with eight minutes left in regulation and the Penguins still clinging to that one goal. Adams leaped high to swat a puck from the defensive zone, then worked it — slowly, doggedly — up the rink. At the Winnipeg blue line, defenseman Zach Redmond held him for an interference call that ticked precious seconds off the clock.

At 15:11, with the advantage now two men, Neal sealed the deal with his 11th goal — seventh on the power play — by drilling a one-timer from the right dot through Pavelec's pads.

Adams' final chapter came after Winnipeg pulled within one, when he found the open net from center red.

“Perfect guy to get it,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Really, a highlight game for Craig Adams.”

Another judge weighs in.

The Penguins, 10-5 after taking two in a row, moved within a point of New Jersey for the Eastern Conference lead.

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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