The Pittsburgh Penguins needed to make a statement in Anaheim Friday night after being defeated in dominant fashion by both the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks in the past week. Thanks to Brandon Sutter‘s beautiful backhand in the sixth round of the shootout, they escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
It certainly wasn’t pretty. The Penguins only managed three shots in the first period, followed by only four in the second. Both teams rang shots off the post, but there was no doubt that the Ducks were controlling the play for the first 40 minutes of the game.
Sutter’s stat line might not look superb – zero points, one shot and a -1 rating – but he was the difference-maker for the Penguins. I’d like to add, after watching the tape, that I believe the stat sheet is incorrect because Sutter wasn’t on the ice for either of the Ducks’ goals. Both of Perry’s goals happened with the line of Evgeni Malkin, Jussi Jokinen and James Neal out there.
Anyway, Sutter knows he is in the hot seat to perform. If there’s anything we learned from the moves the Penguins attempted to make before the trade line, it’s that general manager Ray Shero views Sutter as an expendable player. Every potential deal that would send either Ryan Kesler or Thomas Vanek to the Pens included Sutter’s name as a possible export.
It’s quite apparent that he’s been playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Sutter is rarely going to be the guy who gets the big goal, that’s not what he’s paid to do, but he is a guy who can go out and do all the little things right. He blocks shots, grinds down opposing top lines and can kill penalties at big times.
Friday night, Sutter mainly helped weather the storm. He played strong defensively in his own end and when things weren’t going the Penguins’ way, he controlled all the pandemonium that the Ducks were creating.
When it came down to the shootout and it was all square after five rounds, Sutter was the last true offensive threat the Penguins had available. After watching Chris Kunitz score on his backhand in the previous round, Sutter started out wide and deked to his backhand and put a perfect shot just inside the far post behind Jonas Hiller.
Friday night’s victory was huge for the Penguins as they move forward, and the heroics of Sutter in the shootout may have overlooked the damage he did in regulation, but for the type of player that he is, the only thing that matters is the two points.
Look for Sutter to continue to play with an edge as he attempts to prove Shero wrong. There’s nothing he’d like more than to show that he is indeed a necessary part of the equation to winning the Stanley Cup.