Originally written on Bleed Black & Gold  |  Last updated 10/26/11

So far this season, the Penguins have had different players rise to the occassion in the absence of their two big guns, but one thing has remained constant during this hot start and that’s goaltending.  Marc-Andre Fleury played a phenominal game en route to earning his 20th career shutout as the Pens won by a final score of 3-0.  It seemed like no matter what was going on around him, Fleury was not going to be denied the shutout he has been flirting with in his last few outings.  Several of his 33 saves were of the spectacular fashion tonight, and eventhough the defense was sometimes a little shaky with the new D pairings, Fleury held strong between the pipes.

Another high point for the Penguins tonight was the Evgeni Malkin sighting.  For the first time in the last 5 games, Malkin was able to take the ice and play at a high level.  In fact he logged substancial ice time for somebody with a bad wheel.  I’m a little curious what his status will be for Thursday though, because I can’t imagine that Bylsma wants to push Malkin’s knee very hard if he doesn’t have to.  So if there is any kind of soreness, I would imagine that Malkin will rest Thursday for Saturday’s showdown with Toronto.

While Malkin did play well, his line wasn’t able to get a puck behind the Islander netminder, but it didn’t matter as some unlikely heros stepped up again for the Penguins.  Pascal Dupuis tracked down a lead pass from Brooks Orpik and converted on the breakaway opportunity in the 1st and Richard Park made a nifty move into the slot with the puck after Asham poked the puck to him near the Islander blue line and bounced a wrist shot off Nobokov’s shoulder and into the net.   Jordan Staal then added an empty net goal for his 6th goal of the season and 5th in the last 6 games.

But overall, the night belonged tp Fleury.  His play makes me wonder if Bylsma will go with him again as the Islanders come to Pittsburgh Thursday.  My gut says no because of that showdown with Toronto is Saturday and the early season workload for the Penguins has bordered on extreme.  Eventhough Fleury has been dominant in his last few starts, I would be surprised if the Penguins didn’t put Johnson out there on Thursday.  Plus, I’d like to see Johnson play just because he got into a couple fights with the Islanders last year and there’s nothing more fun than a goalie fight.  Unless of course Johnson ends it in one punch like he did with DiPietro last year.

With this win, the Penguins are now 7-2-2 and their 16 points lead the NHL, although they have played about 3 more games than the rest of the league.  Still I imagine that the Penguins, as well as their fans, are quite pleased to post a start like this with the injury problems they’ve had to start the season.  The second leg of the home and home with the Islanders will be Thursday night in Pittsburgh and then they will travel to Toronto for a big game with the Leafs before have a well deserved 5 day break.

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