Goals by Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen gave the Penguins (33-12-2, 68 points) a 2-0 lead entering the third period, the same advantage they wasted against the Oilers in an overtime loss the previous evening. The punchless Flames did manage to make it 2-1 with 8:31 to play on Mikael Backlund‘s tally, but Marc-Andre Fleury (27 saves) and the Pens sent Calgary to its sixth straight home loss.
Pittsburgh improved to 4-0-1 in the new year, including a 2-0-1 mark on its concluded western Canada swing. The Pens weren’t at their best during the trip, but they rallied for a 5-4 shootout win Tuesday in Vancouver and managed to take three of four points from the basement-dwelling Oilers and Flames.
It wasn’t all good news Saturday night, as Pens defenseman Robert Bortuzzo will be subject to a disciplinary review for his major penalty early in the third period. Bortuzzo was kicked out of the game for a check to the head of Calgary’s Mark Giordano, but the Flames couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play. Also, first-line rookie winger Brian Gibbons sustained a lower-body injury in the first and didn’t return.
Kunitz netted his 24th goal of the season with an accurate sharp-angle wrist shot with 3:26 left in the first. Niskanen raised the Pittsburgh lead to two when his shot through a crowd bounced under Calgary goalie Reto Berra, who otherwise was quite strong in making 24 stops.
Berra denied Sidney Crosby twice on partial breakaways early to give the Flames some leeway; Calgary had been shut out in five of its previous seven games. Crosby, whose seven-game point streak came to an end, also hit the post in the second period on an odd-man rush.
Although Mike Cammalleri neutralized part of Bortuzzo’s five-minute penalty with a minor of his own, Backlund rifled a left-circle shot into the top shelf to give Calgary some life with several minutes remaining. However, the Penguins didn’t allow the tying goal, playing especially strong defense in the final minute with Berra pulled for an extra attacker.
Pittsburgh returns home to face rival Washington at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.