The Pittsburgh Penguins are probably one injury away from signing people off of the street to fill out a roster.
On Monday night against Toronto they were without five of their top-six defensemen, including all of their top-four .
They were without their top goal-scoring winger, James Neal, as he sat out the second game of his five-game suspension for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head. They were without depth forwards Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass and Andrew Ebbett, one of the many replacements they've had to call up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the past few weeks.
Then, during the game, they lost Jayson Megna in a collision with Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (Megna's status for their next game Wednesday appears to be in doubt). They had nearly as many minor league call-ups in their lineup as they did regular NHL players.
And they still won, beating the Maple Leafs, 3-1, at the Consol Energy Center thanks to goals from Chris Conner, Sidney Crosby and Brandon Sutter, as well as a fantastic effort from a defense made up almost entirely of rookies.
They not only won, they actually outplayed the Maple Leafs for much of the night to improve their lead in the Metropolitan Division to 10 points over the second place Washington Capitals.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Evander Kane returned to the Jets lineup and contributed two points (a goal and an assist) in their 3-2 win over Columbus, while Ottawa knocked off the St. Louis Blues (who lost captain David Backes to an upper body injury) thanks to Cody Ceci's first NHL goal, an overtime game winner. The Avalanche also rolled past the Dallas Stars thanks in part to yet another slick goal by No. 1 overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon.
All the NHL Scores
Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 1
Jets 3, Blue Jackets 2
Senators 3, Blues 2
Avalanche 6, Stars 2
On Monday we asked you five burning questions about the days games. These are your cool, soothing answers.
1. How will the Penguins defense corps perform?
Considering they were without their top-four defensemen, and another regular in Deryk Engelland, they were fantastic. For years the Penguins have been stockpiling young, puck-moving defensemen in the draft and all of that depth is starting to pay off. It was all on display on Monday night with Olli Maatta, Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson and Roberto Bortuzzo doing their part to shut down the Maple Leafs and limit their chances. Maatta, a 19-year-old rookie that was selected in the first-round (No. 22 overall) in 2012 was the real star on Monday, playing a career-high 24:17 in the win. Bortuzzo also made an impact, mostly by hitting a bunch of people.
2. How will the Penguins perform without Evgeni Malkin?
It wasn't the most exciting game they've ever played, and chances were hard to come by, but the Penguins did just enough without Malkin to get a win. Sidney Crosby stepped up with a big goal while Chris Conner opened the scoring getting a dirty goal in front of the crease. Brandon Sutter added an empty-netter in the final minute with the Maple Leafs on a 6-on-4 power play to secure the win.
3. Will Blake Wheeler extend his goal streak?
4. How will Tyler Seguin follow up his four-point performance?
It was an ugly one for Dallas, as they were blown out in Colorado, 6-2, but Seguin did his part by contributing to both Stars' goals, scoring his 18th of the season and assisting on Kevin Connauton's first period goal. He is now 11th in the NHL this season with 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists).
5. How will Robin Lehner perform against the St. Louis Blues?
Outside of giving up two late second period goals to Chris Stewart, he was awesome for the Senators stopping 30 of 32 shots in the win. His best save of the night was an old school double pad stack that robbed Alexander Steen with just under five minutes to play in the second period.
The one play or moment from Monday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
On this night it's actually a two-parter. First, in his return to the lineup we saw just how important Evander Kane is to the Jets and how dominant he can be when he's on top of his game. He was the best player on the ice for Winnipeg in its 3-2 win over Columbus. The Jets also avoided a brief scare when he had to leave the game for a short period after he was hit in the foot by a shot.
Stat of the Night
With all of their injuries and suspensions the Pittsburgh Penguins had $31.8 million in cap space out of the lineup on Monday night between Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik, Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass and Deryk Engelland. And they still won.
Post to Post
- Another day, another suspension. This time it was Edmonton Oilers defenseman Corey Potter getting two games for boarding Anaheim's Nick Bonino on Sunday night.
- Speaking of suspensions, Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins will be appealing his 15-game ban.
- Just what is Toronto's true shooting talent?
- Milan Lucic and Vancouver. It's always something.