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NHL Pittsburgh PenguinsVancouver Canucks

Olli Maatta Comes Up Big As Pittsburgh Penguins Outlast Vancouver Canucks

Penguins Canucks Maatta

Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports

Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta continued to make the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ upcoming decision on whether or not he stays with the team a difficult one, as he scored the game-tying goal on Saturday to help force a shootout against the Vancouver Canucks. The Penguins survived an early fluke goal that got by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and were able to stay unbeaten at home thanks to Evgeni Malkin‘s shootout goal. Maatta now has a goal and three points in eight games while Kris Letang has been out with an injury, and continues to look like he belongs with the Penguins.

A deep slap shot from Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler beat Fleury early, but goals from Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz helped keep Pittsburgh in the game. Fleury finished the afternoon with 36 saves and turned aside three Canucks shooters in the tiebreaker to preserve his seventh win of the season. After a subpar 2012-13 season, Fleury has bounced back in a big way and now boasts a 1.84 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. The Penguins are 7-1-0 and rank in the top six in the league in goals per game, goals-against and power play percentage. The one area of their game that could see some improvement is the penalty kill, which ranks 24th in the league. On Saturday they shut down Vancouver’s only chance with the man-advantage and continued to improve one of the best team shootout records.

Maatta’s goal was the first of his career, and the Penguins would be smart to keep the 2012 first-round draft pick around for the season. He can be sent back to juniors, but has been a breath of fresh air on a defense corps that has shown its age in the past few seasons.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.