By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
February 12, 2012
Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second period goal with James Neal #18 against the Winnipeg Jets during the game at Consol Energy Center on February 11, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Evgeni Malkin played in his 400th NHL game Saturday and had five points, just another day at the office for the world's finest hockey player. James Neal continued his best season by scoring his 29th goal, a blistering shot off a faceoff win by Malkin that left coach Dan Bylsma raving about Neal's "trigger." Richard Park scored his 100th career goal. Jordan Staal played for the first time after missing 15 games with a knee injury and had a goal and perhaps the game's most significant assist on a goal by Dustin Jeffrey that started the climb out of an early 2-0 hole. The Penguins beat the Winnipeg Jets, 8-5, in a throwback, can't-anyone-here-play-defense? game at Consol Energy Center.
It figures Chris Kunitz would pick this day to have his first four-point game in more than two years.
No matter what he does, the man just can't find the spotlight.
That doesn't mean the Penguins don't appreciate Kunitz's sizable contributions. His linemates, Malkin and Neal, who started the day ranked Nos. 3 and 4 in goals in the NHL, marvel at the dirty work he does. So does Bylsma, who talked of how Kunitz's "speed and physicality" creates space and loose pucks for Malkin and Neal.
"I don't think you measure my game by the number of points I have," Kunitz said. "You measure it by the number of goals our line scores."
I'll buy that.
That means Kunitz has been terrific for the Penguins.
The Kunitz-Malkin-Neal line has been the NHL's best for most of the season.
It was nice to see Kunitz get his 15th goal Saturday, his first in nine games and his first power-play goal in 17. Malkin set him up at the blue line behind the Jets defense with a brilliant pass. Kunitz cruised down right wing and blasted a shot by goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who, after facing 39 shots, knows what it means to be under siege.
"You've got to capitalize on your opportunities," Kunitz said, shrugging. "I play with a couple of guys who like to shoot the puck."
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