OK, so maybe the goal wouldn't have been such a big deal if someone else had scored it. Someone like, say, Sidney Crosby. Or John Tavares. Or any of a number of other world-class forwards. But no, the goal that put the Penguins in front to stay in what became a frenetic, 6-4 victory against the New York Islanders Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum was scored by a defenseman. A rookie defenseman. A 19-year-old defenseman. So, yeah, what Olli Maatta did was kind of special. Mostly because it gave yet another glimpse into his potential to develop into a major force at both ends of the ice by the time shaving becomes a part of his daily routine. The score was tied, 2-2, when Maatta took a drop pass from Chris Kunitz and skated through the left circle before cutting to the net and calmly sliding a backhander by Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin at 5:35 of the second period. "I just kind of let the play develop," Maatta said. "[Kunitz] made a great pass. He saw me coming." So did Poulin. Didn't matter. The most impressive part of Maatta's goal? He made it look effortless. While his execution was flawless, the patience and poise Maatta showed while the play was unfolding was even more striking. "Good instincts," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Good hands. Nice finish. That move's not in my playbook. ... He made a great read, nobody came to him and he put it in." The victory was the Penguins' 15th in their past 19 games (15-3-1) and raised their Eastern Conference-leading points total to 74.
Penguins overcome early deficit to beat Islanders, 6-4
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Jan 24