Pittsburgh Penguins Start Hot, Look Like Team To Beat in NHL

By Troy Pfaff
Charles LeClaire – US PRESSWIRE

Plenty members of the Pittsburgh Penguins said they were ready for the opening of the 2013 NHL season. The team’s play this weekend enforced that notion.

The club opened the season with a fantastic 3-1 win over cross-state rivals Philadelphia Flyers and immediately stated that they were ready to exact revenge for last season’s playoff series loss.

Tyler Kennedy scored the team’s first goal of the season just 4:40 into the first period while on the power play. James Neal added another with an assist from Evgeni Malkin three minutes later.

Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux buried a pass just 23 seconds into the second frame, but the Penguins were able to keep the Flyers off the board for the rest of the game while Chris Kunitz added an empty net goal with 12 seconds left in the third.

Marc-Andre Fleury was absolutely huge in net. The Flyers had five power plays in the game and created a few opportunities but couldn’t beat Fleury and the Penguins on any of them. Fleury wound up saving 26 of the 27 shots sent his way, and Pittsburgh’s power play went 2/3.

It was a great road win on national television for the Penguins, but their play on Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers was even more impressive.

Neal scored a power play goal from Malkin and Kris Letang just 1:48 into the contest. New York’s Ryan Callahan responded with a power play marker eight minutes later, but that triggered an absolute barrage of Penguins goals.

Kennedy and Matt Niskanen scored in the final five minutes of the period for the Penguins to give the team a 3-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Pascal Dupuis  added a power play goal in the second period, while Neal scored his second goal of the game five minutes into the third period, giving the Penguins a 5-1 lead that proved insurmountable.

The Rangers added two goals in the third – including Rick Nash‘s first career goal as a Ranger – but the Penguins would go on to win the 6-3.

I’ve mentioned before that the Rangers are the only team in the Eastern Conference that scares me. Many picked the Rangers to win the conference this season and plenty of experts believe New York is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. But now both they and the Flyers are 0-2 and if the Penguins keep playing this way, there isn’t a better team in the entire league.

Perhaps most encouraging about this weekend’s performances is the fact that the Penguins posted 9 goals against two formidable opponents and Sidney Crosby recorded just a single assist.

Once Crosby officially gets his head and body into game shape, there may be no stopping this team.

The Penguins next play on Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the team’s Home Opener.

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff for more NHL and Pittsburgh Penguins content

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