Top line states case as Penguins win 14th in a row
The Penguins were not credited with a power play against the Winnipeg Jets.
When a line like the combination of Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz is clicking like this, having a man advantage really isn’t necessary.
The Penguins’ top line performed a clinic against Winnipeg on Thursday at Consol Energy Center in a 4-0 victory, increasing the team’s winning streak to 14 games.
This marks the second longest streak in Penguins’ history and the third longest streak in NHL history.
“They create a lot of space for themselves and keep moving,” Winnipeg left wing Andrew Laad said. “They really keep you on your toes.”
The trio brought the crowd to its feet throughout the night.
Dupuis scored two goals, Kunitz buried his 20th of the season and Crosby earned two assists, increasing his league-leading point total to 56.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun earned his 50th career shutout while the Penguins outshot Winnipeg, 43-20.
“We try to go out and play every game the same way,” Kunitz said.
But how many games together will the trio see from this point?
The presence of new right wing Jarome Iginla could threaten Dupuis’ spot on the top line. Coach Dan Bylsma said he did not “have an inkling” to alter his top line despite the presence of Iginla.
He did, however, indicate Iginla will see some time with Crosby.
Perhaps in a performance inspired to impress the coach, the top line enjoyed one of its finest outings of the season, its chemistry on display as much as its production.
On the game’s first goal, Crosby made a blind, backhand pass to Kunitz, who was the only player on the ice expecting the pass to be executed.
“Just gave him a holler,” Kunitz said. “He didn’t even look. He knew where to put it. He feels you on the ice.”
The trio produced 15 shots, 14 of them at even strength. Dupuis, who registered a game-high seven shots, scored a short-handed goal. He now has 16 goals.
“We carried the play,” Crosby said of his line. “We were in the offensive zone a lot. We kept our foot on the gas through the night.”
The No. 1 line has excelled all season.
While Crosby leads the NHL in scoring by a 12-point margin, Kunitz is in second place in the scoring race.
“Just impressive,” Dupuis said of the performance. “Guys are playing well and paying the price.”
More chemistry from the top line was on display in the second period.
Crosby neatly chipped a pass off the boards for Kunitz, triggering a two-on-one. Kunitz delivered a saucer pass to Dupuis, and he made no mistake, one-timing a shot past Winnipeg goalie Al Montoya.
Dupuis scored a short-handed goal later in the period and nearly converted a on third goal during a flurry of chances in the third period.
“We did a really good job tonight with zone time, and most of that is a tribute to Sid’s ability to hang on to the puck,” Kunitz said.
It’s becoming clear, though, that the wingers flanking Crosby deserve some credit, too.
Dupuis and Kunitz can hope no line turnover is coming.
“Me and Duper don’t dazzle too many people,” Kunitz said. “Our game is speed and finding our center.”
They indeed seem to have found their center.