Staal lifts Penguins to overtime win
Maybe it was fitting that Dan Bylsma's 100th victory with the Penguins came on this night. He was coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before he came here, and he must have felt like he was back in the American Hockey League on Thursday at Consol Energy Center.
With six players who started the season in the minor leagues at his disposal, Bylsma and the Penguins finished a 2-1 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings when Jordan Staal scored with 18.4 seconds remaining.
"I've got the puck," Bylsma said. "It's nice to get into triple digits."
The Baby Penguins did a pretty fair job filling in. They scored, they fought and they got hurt — just like the big guys.
"Great win," left wing Pascal Dupuis said. "The Wilkes-Barre guys were good — really good."
With many key players out of the lineup — add Dustin Jeffrey, who dominated at Wilkes-Barre earlier this season, to the injury list after he left at the end of the first period with a lower body injury — the Penguins went toe-to-toe with one of the NHL's more talented teams.
Brett Sterling opened the scoring at 6:53 of the first period. He took a feed from Jeffrey and buried a shot over Jonathan Quick's glove. Nick Johnson was credited with the other assist. Those three formed a standout line earlier this season in Wilkes-Barre.
"I thought the line of Jeffrey, Sterling and Johnson in the first period was our best," Bylsma said.
The Penguins kept it simple the rest of the way, a Bylsma suggestion after back-to-back losses. This, the Penguins insist, is the way they must play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup.
"It's never going to be pretty hockey," Staal said. "We did a great job of battling through."
The Penguins need to sparkle defensively to keep winning with this lineup, and they did against the Kings. Zbynek Michalek made two impressive plays in the first period, robbing Justin Williams and Andrei Loktionov of goals. He fought off both players to clear pucks from the crease, with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury out of position each time.
"He saved my butt once or twice," Fleury said.
Ryan Craig, who joined Joe Vitale, Johnson and Sterling as the latest arrivals from Wilkes-Barre, dropped the gloves in the second period. So, too, did Deryk Engelland.
The game was tight throughout, and Staal nearly had a chance to win it with a second left in regulation. But Scuderi, whose big saves are nothing new to Penguins fans, swept aside Staal's opportunity.
"Typical Rob Scuderi fashion," Bylsma said.
The Kings dominated overtime, but Fleury kept the Penguins alive. Then, Staal found a wrist shot through Quick's stick side.
"I just buried my head and fired as hard as I could," Staal said.
The Penguins play nine of their next 11 on the road. Staal, perhaps the team's most important player at this point, said he feels confident.
"The guys from Wilkes-Barre are doing an unbelievable job," he said. "It's nice that those guys are ready to play. It's something every team deals with. Hopefully, we'll get through it."