Short-handed Penguins manage a victory over visiting Maple Leafs
By Josh Yohe
Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 10:03 p.m.
There was defiance in the Penguins on this night.
Controversial hits and incidents have been the talk of the NHL for weeks — and make no mistake, the Penguins have been front and center in many regards — but the Penguins played their most physical game of the season in a 3-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at Consol Energy Center on Monday.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo set the tone. He got the best of Toronto's Troy Bodie in a first-period fight, delivered a game-high six hits — one of them controversial — was a plus-2 and recorded an assist on Sidney Crosby's game-winning goal.
“I think someone slipped gunpowder in his pregame meal,” center Joe Vitale said.
The same could be said of the entire team, which outhit Toronto, 36-25.
Playing with eight players who were pegged to begin the season in the American Hockey League, the Penguins punched and clawed their way to a victory.
Bortuzzo delivered a third-period hit on forward Jerry D'Amigo in which a portion of his right arm hit D'Amigo's head. Bortuzzo will not face any discipline for the hit to the head, which NHL Player Safety deemed was unavoidable in a decision announced after the game.
Bortuzzo was given a two-minute penalty and, two shifts later, obliterated D'Amigo with a hit that knocked the forward out of the game.
Even Crosby got in on the act, punching Toronto's Nazem Kadri following a brief spat and earning a two-minute penalty.
Forward Zach Sill also dropped the gloves for the Penguins, winning a spirited fight against Bodie.
Coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged that he has wanted to see more physical play from his team. It answered the bell against the Maple Leafs.
“It's not part of our identity,” Bylsma said. “We've focused on being better in that regard, in terms of the forecheck. It's something we're continuing to get better at as a group.”
Some Penguins acknowledged that being physical against Toronto was part of their plan. With such a depleted lineup — the Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and their top four defensemen — beating the speedy Maple Leafs in a game of skill seemed unlikely.
So, the Penguins beat them with tenacity instead.
“When the opportunity is there with the group we have, you have to play physical,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “A guy like Robert Bortuzzo is going to hit someone if the hit is there. They have a lot of skill. You have to be hard on them, and we were tonight.”
Niskanen didn't have a problem with Bortuzzo's hit on D'Amigo.
“It was legal,” he said. “I don't know if he got him in the head. Those are the tough ones. It was fast; he's taller than him. Sometimes you catch him in the chin. At first glance, I thought it was a good hit.”
And at first glance, the Penguins had to be happy with the performance of many new players.
Brian Dumoulin recorded an assist in his second NHL game. Fellow defensemen Philip Samuelsson, playing in front of his father, former Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, acquitted himself nicely.
Other players who started the season in the AHL, notably Harry Zolnierczyk and Jayson Megna, stood out because of their speed and physical play.
When a goal was necessary, a bigger name was available to record the game-winner.
Sidney Crosby notched his 19th goal of the year, and Brandon Sutter added an empty-netter to lift the Penguins' home record to 15-3. Most of those wins have been a product of skill. This one was more brutal.
The Penguins likely will play without Megna against the Rangers on Wednesday. He sustained a lower-body injury.
“The refs let some things go early on,” Crosby said. “It kind of escalated. They let us play.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Heralded Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov debuts with Capitals
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Penguins notebook: Maatta leaves lasting impression with Selanne
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Penguins’ Letang reveals scary details of stroke