Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches 800 career points
Blake Comeau didn’t complain, but he also didn’t agree with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ assessment of him the past two seasons.
They saw him as a fourth-line winger, as someone who can provide a physical punch and not much more. Comeau believed — and still does — that he could provide some scoring punch given the chance.
Don’t expect Comeau’s new employer to share the assessment of his old one.
Especially not after Comeau scored three goals to power the Penguins to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center, including the winner at 2:53 of the extra session.
It was the second hat trick of Comeau’s career, and the last of his three goals included an assist from captain Sidney Crosby, who netted his 800th career point.
“I felt like I had more to offer,” Comeau said of his two years with Columbus. “They wanted me to be a fourth-line guy who played physical. I put my head down, and that’s what I went and did. But in the back of my mind, I always felt like I had more to offer.
“Here, I’m getting a great opportunity to show that. I just want to take that opportunity and run with it.”
Playing with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Comeau has eight goals and is on pace for a 31-goal season. Comeau led the Penguins in scoring during the preseason and hasn’t stopped.
“I think it was pretty evident right away in exhibition play that he was playing with some speed, playing with confidence and poise with the puck,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. “It just seems to keep going for him.”
Johnston started Comeau in a bottom-six role. When Malkin shifted from wing to center, Comeau took a spot on the Penguins’ second line with Pascal Dupuis. He later replaced Dupuis on Crosby’s line when Dupuis was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung.
At this rate, Comeau besting his career-high of 24 goals set in 2010-11 seems perfectly reasonable — and a far cry from what he has experienced the past few years.
“It’s interesting when players come to a new organization,” Johnston said. “If they get confidence, they get on a roll; it sometimes can change their fortune. At one time, he was a very good hockey player. Then he’s had some bumps along the way, some ups and downs. Now he’s really played well for us. Just so consistent from Day 1.”
Malkin finished with a goal and two assists. He has 50 points in 27 career games against Toronto, an average of 1.85. He’s on pace for 109 points.
The Penguins (15-4-2) improved to 7-2-1 at home, but this one, like others before it, did not come without a few hiccups and defensive breakdowns. It was the Penguins’ first one-goal victory at home.
“I believe we were inconsistent tonight throughout the game,” Johnston said. “We had a pretty good start even though the shots weren’t in our favor. We had some great chances that we missed the net. We missed some touches around the net. I thought we had the better scoring chances through two periods. But I didn’t think we had the energy. I didn’t think we had the speed.”
Comeau’s blast from the top of the slot sealed it. How sizzling was the shot?
“It was a great shot,” Crosby said. “Too hard for me to touch.”
The Penguins swept the season series against the Maple Leafs for just the second time in franchise history. They went 3-0-0 against Toronto in 1985-86.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 24 of 27 shots, was honored during a first-period timeout with a standing ovation for winning his 300th career game earlier in the week at Boston.
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.