Penguins goaltender Thiessen pitches in with his first NHL win
Somewhere between dawn's early light and the bombs bursting in air, rookie Brad Thiessen thought for a moment he was probably more nervous than the 10-year-old national anthem singer.
Yet both showed great poise.
"He didn't have any butterflies it looked like, so maybe that calmed me down, too," Thiessen said with a laugh after making his first career NHL start in the Penguins' 4-2 victory Sunday over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Consol Energy Center.
The 25-year-old was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to temporarily replace injured goalie Brent Johnson, but Thiessen hopes his 22-save performance will earn him another.
"Every chance I get to be here, whether it be in practice or a game, is a chance to show them I can play here," Thiessen said. "I was trying to do that today."
A season ago, his second in Wilkes-Barre, Thiessen was awarded the Baz Bastien Memorial Trophy as the AHL's top goaltender. His future remains uncertain, but the organization likes his potential.
Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang and Joe Vitale scored third-period goals to earn Thiessen his first victory, and Evgeni Malkin added to his league-best point total with a second-period goal.
Their third consecutive victory moved the Penguins past the New Jersey Devils and into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. To climb any higher, though, the Penguins would have to catch the New York Rangers, who lead the Atlantic Division with 84 points. The Penguins have 77.
The Penguins' defense helped its young goalie, limiting the Blue Jackets to 24 shots. The Penguins had 40. But Thiessen stopped a few strong shots, including an up-close backhand by Cam Atkinson in the scoreless first period.
"There were three or four or five instances where he had to come out and make a save," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, "and I thought he did a real good job."
Rick Nash, who might have played his last game with the Blue Jackets, gave Columbus a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal 9:49 into the second period. Nash slipped behind the defense and beat Thiessen on a breakaway.
It was the 21st goal for Nash, who could be traded before Monday's 3 p.m. deadline.
A wrist shot by Malkin from the right faceoff circle tied the score with 48 seconds left in the second. The power-play goal deflected into the net off the leg of defenseman Jack Johnson, newly acquired by Columbus.
"When you're hot, you're hot," Johnson said. "Their power play is making them go right now."
The goal gave Malkin 78 points, three ahead of Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos. The goal was Malkin's 37th and his fifth in the past three games.
"It's fun to be back there on the same ice surface and watch probably the best player in the league right now do his thing," Thiessen said. "It was great to see."
Third-period goals by Dupuis, Letang and Vitale made his day even better. Vitale's, with 5:03 left, gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead.
Thiessen allowed a late goal by Columbus' Vinny Prospal but still was named the game's No. 1 star.
"The first couple periods flew by pretty quickly," Thiessen said, "and then once we got it to 4-1 it seemed like the puck moved a little slower."
Thiessen, who was undrafted, had waited patiently for his first NHL start. Since signing with the Penguins in 2009, he'd played 113 games in Wilkes-Barre and 12 in Wheeling. This season, he was 20-14-2-2 with a 2.88 GAA.
When Johnson was injured in Thursday's practice, Thiessen was summoned to Pittsburgh. He also was here for the Rangers game, backing up starter Marc-Andre Fleury when Johnson was sick. This time, though, Thiessen got to play.
"I knew it was coming at some point," he said. "I wanted to believe it was. It wasn't easy to stick to it at some times, but they kept telling me that it was going to come."
Blue Jackets, 1-0 (9:49) SHG: LW Rick Nash slipped behind the defense and used a quick wrist shot to beat G Brad Thiessen on a breakaway.
Penguins, 1-1 (19:12) PPG: C Evgeni Malkin's wrist shot from the right faceoff circle deflected into the net off the leg of Blue Jackets D Jack Johnson.
Penguins, 2-1 (5:50): LW Pascal Dupuis turned quickly in the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot past G Curtis Sanford.
Penguins, 3-1 (10:47) PPG: D Kris Letang, just seconds after having a goal disallowed, blasted a shot past Sanford from the right faceoff circle.
Penguins, 4-1 (14:57): C Joe Vitale found a loose puck in front of a crowded net and whacked it past Sanford.
Blue Jackets, 4-2 (15:07): LW Vinny Prospal, leading a two-on-one, slipped a wrist shot past Thiessen from the left faceoff circle.