Pens help Kehoe win debut
The victory was big for Rick Kehoe, who was seeking his first win in his debut as the Penguins’ head coach. It was important for the franchise that was eager to get its first win of the season following an 0-4 start.
But it was particularly important for goaltender Johan Hedberg.
In the midst of a disappointing start as a follow up to last season’s unlikely playoff heroics, Hedberg regained his form Tuesday night, stopping 37 of 39 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Senators.
With the familiar cries of “Moooooose” repeatedly echoing down from the upper reaches of Mellon Arena, Hedberg for the first time this season avoided succumbing to what Kehoe had characterized as “fluky goals” and turned in a quality performance that helped ignite the Penguins.
The highlight for Hedberg was his spectacular pad save against Marian Hossa on a penalty shot with 2:53 remaining in the first period and the Penguins ahead, 1-0.
“It gives the goaltender a chance to kind of make a difference, a significant difference,” Hedberg said. “It’s a fun challenge for the goaltender, just you and the shooter one-on-one. I looked at it as a chance to give the team a jump.”
Although he hadn’t faced a penalty shot in his brief NHL career, Hedberg never flinched.
Instead, he came away with a tenacious save, the kind of which he made with regularity last spring. It also was the kind of momentum-building/altering stop that Hedberg hadn’t been able to come up with as often as he’d hoped to in his first three starts.
The Penguins lost all three of those, and Hedberg emerged with unsatisfactory numbers (a 3.69 goals-against average and a .851 save percentage). Although it would be overstating the case to say he was struggling, Hlinka had emphasized just prior to his departure that Hedberg’s play had so far suggested that he wasn’t especially entrenched as the Penguins’ No. 1 goaltender. Kehoe extended that statement one step further upon taking over when he declared, “There is no No.1 (goaltender).”
There still isn’t, but Kehoe will turn to Hedberg again when the Penguins and Senators meet in a rematch tonight in Ottawa.
“It’s a team game, a team effort,” Hedberg said after Tuesday night’s win over the Senators.
The Penguins suddenly are a team that’s feeling much better about itself and its situation now that a victory has finally been achieved.
As for the guy in the Moose mask, “It was a big boost for me, too.”