Dupuis delivers Pens to victory over Lightning
TAMPA – Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis had broken the 20-goal barrier on two other occasions in his NHL career.
Of course, he only required 41 games to reach the mark this time.
Dupuis stayed hot and so did his team, as the Penguins won their third consecutive game thanks to a 6-3 victory on Thursday against the Lightning.
“The guy is just awesome,” said teammate Tanner Glass, who notched his first goal of the season.
“It's a contract year for Duper, isn't it?”
Yes, it is. And while Dupuis' value is skyrocketing, his ego is remaining firmly grounded.
“I get to play with great teammates,” Dupuis said. “That helps a lot.”
Still, Dupuis' season has been startlingly good.
In a regular 82-game season, he would be on pace for 40 goals. Dupuis picked up his 20th goal of the season and added two assists against the Lightning.
“Absolutely, he's been impressive,” left wing Brenden Morrow said. “I don't want to say he wasn't that same player when I saw him more frequently in Minnesota. But he's just playing with so much confidence now. The way he shoots now, and the way he skates. He's quite a player.”
Dupuis, who rarely sees power play time, is now tied with Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane for fifth in the NHL goal-scoring race. Dupuis trails league-leaders Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos by six goals.
He picked up a rare power-play goal in the first period. With the Penguins already ahead 1-0 on the strength of a Jussi Jokinen goal – he would later add another and now has three goals in three games with the Penguins – Dupuis went to work with the second power-play unit.
Right wing Tyler Kennedy found himself open in the slot and fired a shot. Goalie Ben Bishop directed the rebound in Dupuis' direction. In what perfectly illustrates his game, Dupuis used his quickness to beat the Lightning penalty killers to the puck and buried a shot past Bishop.
Goal scoring is a recent addition to Dupuis' game. He's always been sound defensively and now is a plus-27, the second finest mark in the NHL. Only Kunitz, at plus-29, owns a better number.
“He's just so fast and has such a great stick on the first check,” Glass said. “He does so many things well that we want to do well. He's great on the wall. He's just really good right now.”
So are the Penguins.
Coach Dan Bylsma's team has now won 18 of its past 20 games and improved its record to 3-2 without center Sidney Crosby, who surprised teammates by making the trip to Tampa Bay to watch the contest.
Along with Jokinen's two goals and Glass adding his first of the season, Evgeni Malkin and Kunitz added goals for the Penguins, who never trailed. They can finish off a perfect southern road trip with a victory at Florida on Saturday.
Along with the slick offensive work, aided by the return of defenseman Kris Letang, the Penguins showed plenty of grit.
Morrow had a couple of confrontations with Bishop, which led to some fireworks in the third period.
“He introduced me to his trapper,” Morrow said. “I let him know that if I'm in the blue paint, it's OK. But if I'm not, then I will be upset.”
Bishop allowed three goals in the final 25 minutes following the incident.
Dupuis, meanwhile, continued to introduce his newfound scoring touch to the NHL.
“We are all really satisfied,” Dupuis said. “It's a good win for us.”