Neal, Iginla get back on track to lead Penguins
OTTAWA — The wingmen finally delivered, just as their center predicted.
Center Evgeni Malkin was held without a point but deserves credit for prescience following Game 4 as James Neal — Malkin predicted his scoring touch was returning “soon” — and Jarome Iginla ended their respective goal-scoring funks in the Penguins' 7-3 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday at Scotiabank Place.
The Penguins can put the Eastern Conference semifinal series away in Friday's Game 5 at Consol Energy Center.
“I don't think anyone in the room was worried about either of those two,” defenseman Douglas Murray said. “Those guys have scored throughout their whole careers. They haven't disappeared at any point.”
The Penguins appeared to be in trouble in the early going. Neal went to work with the Penguins down, 1-0, after allowing their third shot-handed goal of the postseason. He whipped a shot past goalie Craig Anderson after Iginla had won a faceoff in his direction.
“He is a very confident goal scorer,” Iginla said. “Sometimes you get chances, and a goalie makes better saves, you hit the post or you miss by 2 inches. Nobody really talked about it. He doesn't squeeze his stick. He can put them in in bunches. You can tell when he starts feeling it.”
Iginla was feeling it, too.
Only 40 seconds after left wing Chris Kunitz scored to even the game, Iginla put the Penguins ahead for good by crashing the net. Defenseman Kris Letang, who recorded four assists, fired a bad-angle shot at Anderson. Iginla was there to bury the rebound.
“Nealer just has such a good shot,” Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun said. “You go through ups and downs. Eventually, with skill like that, it's going to go in. We need (Neal and Iginla) to score.”
The shots kept going in for the Penguins in the third period, when they scored four goals in a 6:36 span. Neal and Iginla notched power-play goals during that outburst.
But it was the even-strength success that most satisfied Neal. Chemistry between him and Malkin has been detectable for two seasons, and Iginla appears to be meshing with them.
“Getting used to each other is the biggest thing. Knowing each other's tendencies,” Neal said. “For me and Geno, obviously we've got that chemistry together. And Iggy is working with us. We're always talking. We talked a lot with him, and he feels like he's getting that chemistry, too. It's big.”
Iginla took a feed from Neal in the first period and found himself with a good scoring chance. He didn't convert, but the chances kept coming.
Malkin didn't register a point, but his wingers got rolling Wednesday and had the Penguins feeling good following Game 4.
The three combined for 17 shots, and there was a feeling among them that this is only the beginning.
“There was no frustration,” Iginla said. “We were getting scoring chances. We got some in bunches as a team and as a line. When you keep getting those, you'll find a way.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.