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Adams becomes unlikely hero as Penguins beat Jets

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG -- Their stars weren't exactly sparkling Friday night, so the Pittsburgh Penguins turned to an unsung hero to guide the way.

Craig Adams scored his first two goals of the NHL season to pace the Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots as the Penguins (10-5-0) won their seventh road game of the season.

On a night when all-star forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal were noticeably mundane for most of it, Adams led the way offensively and Fleury dazzled to post his seventh triumph of the shortened NHL season.

Adams, who hasn't had a two-goal game since 2006 season when he played in Carolina, scored just more than three minutes into the game and then added an empty-netter.

Neal scored his 11th of the year for the visitors, while Jets captain Andrew Ladd notched his seventh of the year.

Adams, who also had a fight with Jets winger James Wright in the second period, said big offensive nights aren't his specialty -- but he'll gladly take them.

"It's really nice to score," he said. "It's a short season. We talked about it at the beginning of the year that it's not a regular kind of season (because of the lockout). We're throwing statistical goals out the window. No one's going to get 50 goals out there. For me, it's nice to get a couple."

Ondrej Pavelec was solid in goal for Winnipeg (5-7-1). He stopped 25 shots and had no chance on either Pittsburgh goals.

Jets' Tobias Enstrom, tied with Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues as the NHL's top-scoring defensemen with 13 points apiece, left the game early in the first period and did not return after being slammed cleanly into the boards by Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis.

Less than a minute later, Adams found himself alone in front of Pavelec and, after missing on two swipes at the puck, knocked in his first goal of the year.

"I tried to kick it up to my stick but actually kicked it on goal and their D-man cleared it right back onto my stick," Adams explained. "It surprised me and then I shot it right at Pavelec's pads and then I banged it in.

"Three whacks were enough."

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said Adams did everything and more on a night when the Jets kept the Penguins stars at bay for the most part.

"It's not something you look for Craig Adams for what his numbers are at the end of the year in terms of scoring points and goals. I think, you know, he played a highlight game," Bylsma said. "He stepped in on a fight there, on (James) Wright and starts the game off with a great play with (Joe Vitale) going to the net there, he goes to the net gets a big goal to get us going there to start the game which I thought was real big by their line and then it's only fitting that at the end he gets the empty net goal to seal the deal."

Outshot 12-6 in the opening period, Winnipeg gave its fans little to cheer about, save for a slick between-the-legs dangle by center Alexander Burmistrov who deked defenseman Matt Niskanen and cut in on Fleury before promptly snapping the puck over the glass. Then with 35 seconds left, Jets forward Bryan Little went in on a breakaway but was denied as Fleury waited him out and then threw up his leg to make a save.

Fleury maintained his edge after the break, stoning the Jets on several tremendous chances in the second period. His best was a pad save through traffic on a shot by ex-teammate Eric Tangradi, traded just days ago from Pittsburgh to Winnipeg.

"They come out strong, they're a good team, they're dangerous offensively and they go to the net hard," Fleury said. "We have a lot of great players up front and I just have to make the key saves and keep us in the game and we'll be in good shape."

The Pens led 1-0 after 40 minutes.

Winnipeg pressed for the tying goal in the final frame but couldn't solve Fleury. And then after defensemen Zach Redmond and Mark Stuart took minor penalties, Crosby set up Neal the power-play marker at 15:11.

The Jets pulled Pavelec with 1:40 left in the game and Ladd slipped a puck past a sprawling Fleury on the Jets' 26th shot of the game. But Adams scored with Pavelec on the bench in the game's dying seconds.

The Jets' inability to score goals continues to cost them. Evander Kane, who fired 30 goals a year ago, has just three this season. Olli Jokinen and Little have just a pair of goals, while Burmistrov has one.

Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said his club really struggled with the Penguins' speed in the first period but then bounced back.

"We battled hard in the second period. We had some really good chances.

"I thought Fleury played really well to keep them in there and keep the score how it was," Noel said. "In the third period I thought that we needed to get dumps in better areas and we struggled to get them there.

"But I thought that all in all our game and our effort and our battle level was a lot better. I think that pretty much every player battled hard, but we couldn't get anything going."

NOTES: Just 48 hours after being dealt to Winnipeg, Tangradi suited up against the Penguins, the team that traded him. The 24-year-old forward had dressed for just five games prior to the trade. ... The Penguins made their second visit of the season to the MTS Centre. The first was a 4-2 loss to the Jets on Jan. 25. That night, Crosby scored twice in the first period to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead, but after that it was all Jets. ... Winnipeg defenseman Zach Bogosian played his first game of the season after a long recovery from off-season wrist surgery. ... Pittsburgh has scored first a league-best 12 times this season -- including all nine on the road. ... Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik became the seventh player in club history to play in 600 career games. Among defensemen, only Ron Stackhouse (621 games) has appeared in more games. ... The Jets host Boston on Sunday and then play nine of their next 11 games on the road. ... Pittsburgh wraps up a two-game road trip in Buffalo on Sunday. ... The game against the Jets marked the four-year anniversary for Bylsma as Pittsburgh coach.
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