I'm live and on-site this afternoon at the Consol Energy Center for today's Pens-Oilers matchup. And I have the distinct nature of being the next-to-last person to pick up their media pass, being bested only by the great Michel Therrien. Let's just say describing my pace as "slow motion" today would be an insult to the Joggin' George Hendricks of the world. Although I must say, I timed my trip perfectly to coincide with every red light on the sometimes-depressing Rt. 51, as well as arriving at the same time the Pens fans who were likewise running behind their schedule.
3:20 PM: Nothing notable has happened in the game yet, so let's delve a little more into my trip in today. Sensing I would be too late for the CEC pregame meal, I stopped at Sheetz for a MTO burrito and a 125-gallon Diet Pepsi. Bad idea. Although it could be inspiration for a future installment of Nerd vs. Food, which has been on somewhat of a hiatus.
I continued on down the aforementioned Rt. 51, and the further I went, the more my mood turned sad. If you're not from the Pittsburgh area, let me describe a stretch of the road in the area of Baldwin/Brentwood. It basically goes "abandoned building, abandoned building, pawn shop, abandoned building, pawn shop, abandoned building." It's probably not the poster child for the economic renaissance of Pittsburgh. And to top it off, just before I got to the tunnel, there was a young girl on the side of road with a sign that said "stranded, broke, hungry" and she had her dog with her. Yeah, this pretty much killed my buzz of going to today's game.
Riding that wave, I passed up the $20 parking spot across the street from the CEC in search of a better lot. "I've never paid $20 to park for a Penguin game," I unwisely told myself. Luckily, I had a very pedestrian-friendly batch of Pittsburgh Police working the traffic lights, so I got to waste 15 minutes in traffic before finding a spot...for $15. Easily one of the worst examples of cheapness I've exhibited in my 33 years on the planet.
Follow that up with entering the wrong gate and getting two CEC employees who didn't know where the media entrance was, and voila! The recipe for a 2:59 arrival to a 3:00 game has been written. But at least I got to see the National Anthem.
3:30: I suppose I should write about the game at some point, because I can't imagine that the Pens invited me here for a travel log on how to not get to a game on time. And on that front, I must once again praise the team for continuing to invite bloggers such as myself to a real, live game. I know the Pirates did something with bloggers at their PirateFest this year, but I guess my invitation got lost in cyberspace. I can only assume that the reasoning was the time or 1,000 when I was critical of something they've done. Oh well. There goes an opportunity to change my mind about how their organization does things. At least one franchise in town gets it.
As for the game, the Penguins have outshot the Oilers, 11-1, and there's about 3 minutes left in the first period. That's right, the Oilers have one shot in 17 minutes. Is it too late to reunite Gretzky and Messier? Hey, if Tiki Barber is willing to come back, anything's possible, right?
3:40: The Pens kill off a two-man advantage given to the hopeless Edmonton power play. And to follow that up...GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Chris Kunitz scores his 19th of the season at 19:25 of the period, the Pens first goal since Tuesday. And I was making fun of the Oilers' offense.
3:42: After the first 20 minutes of hockey, it's Penguins 1, Oilers 0. Some other first period stats: shots were 13-1 Pens; hits were 12-6 Pens; Oilers were 0-for-2 on the PP; and Mr. & Mrs. Malkin made one appearance on the Jumbotron to thunderous applause.
4:00: We're off and running in Period II, and the Oilers already tripled their shot output from Period I. Must have been one heck of a locker-room speech.
4:08: GOAL! But the net was dislodged. So no goal. But wait! Max Talbot fakes Devan Dubnyk out of his jock and lights the lamp for the Pens just moments later, his 8th of the season, at 6:27 of the 2nd. Penguins 2, Oilers 0.
4:14: Chris Kunitz gets called for slashing, giving the Oilers another crack at a power play. I'm confident that this will end well, given what I've seen from Edmonton so far today.
4:16: Yeah, that pretty much went as expected. Now let me turn my attention to the Smith's Hot Dog giveaway. Unfortunately, I'm not sitting in section 102 today, so no free Official Hot Dog of the Penguins.
4:21: Penalty on the Oilers means the Pens' 21st-ranked PP unit hits the ice. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
4:24: That's three unsuccessful power plays for each team so far today. In other words, I'm confident that no all-time single-game scoring records will be broken this afternoon.
4:27: Kiss Cam time! Let's hope for some awkwardness!
4:29: Mr. and Mrs. Malkin close the kiss-cam segment with a lip-lock for the ages. And no, I wasn't fast enough to catch it with my camera.
4:31: Matt Cooke gets stopped on a nice chance, doesn't pass on the opportunity to mix it up immediately afterwards. Hey, he didn't get that SI article because he's a
4:32: GOAL! The combination of Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal put the Pens up 3-0 with about a minute left in the second. It's Staal's 8th of the season. Cooke also gets an assist. Now I must focus on the Dairy Queen Bazooka Blast.
4:51: Time to put down the snacks and focus on the third period. If the Pens can close this out and Pitt scores a #1 seed tonight, this should be a pretty good day in terms of Pittsburgh sports. Even the Pirates won!
4:54: And right on schedule, Ryan Jones ruins MAF's shutout with his 16th goal of the season at 1:11 of the third. As for the jinx, you're welcome.
4:59: Alexei Kovalev's been pretty quiet today (2 penalty minutes, 1 shot), but he managed to draw a penalty on Jeff Petry. If someone can give the Pens' PP some smelling salts, this might be a prime opportunity for an insurance goal.
5:02: The Pens are now 0 for their last 22 power plays, and 1 for their last 36. They haven't scored a PP goal in the month of March. Not a good sign going into the postseason.
5:05: GOAL! Zbynek Michalek scores his 2nd of the season on an assist from Craig Adams and Max Talbot at 7:52. Not only is it Michalek's second goal of the season, it's his second in the last week. 4-1 Pens.
5:08: The Pens announce today is consecutive sellout #201. We've come a long way since the Kansas City rumors.
5:10: While I was busy cracking one-liners today, the Oilers have somehow closed the gap in shots to 27-24 after falling behind 13-2 after one period. MAF has quietly played a solid game, and the defense has been praiseworthy as well.
5:12: Ron Burgundy and Brick Tamland prompt the CEC faithful to make loud noises, to moderate success. On that note, has it really been seven years since Anchorman came into our lives?
5:15: MAF is whistled for delay of game, to be served by Mike Rupp. That's called taking one for the team. Six minutes to go in this one.
5:16: Man down! Shawn Horcoff of the Oilers gets a slapshot absolutely blasted off his ankle at close range. That had to hurt...but he was able to skate off.
5:17: Kris Letang just got absolutely leveled behind the Pens' net by Gilbert Brule. Let's just say that wasn't appreciated by Letang's teammates. It's ruled a charging penalty, which puts the Penguins' power play back on the ice(!)
5:20: A Pens power play goal? A Pens power play goal! The slump is over! Chris Kunitz, come on down! Pens 5, Oilers 1, with 3:44 to go. Chili?
5:22: I was just saying, "Gee, it's been a while since I've heard Cotton Eyed Joe...."
5:24: We've got some legit candidates for Three Stars today. MAF has stopped 27 of 28, so you'd have to think he's in the running. Tyler Kennedy is dishing out assists like a young John Stockton. Chris Kunitz has two much-needed goals. I go with that trio in some order.
5:28: And there we have it! Pens 5, Oilers 1 - a nice win and a nice effort after Saturday's stink bomb against Montreal. Now let's hope the trip from the arena is better than the trip to the arena.