COTE TAKES BITE OUT OF FORMER TEAM
WILKES-BARRE, PA -It didn't take much extra motivation for J.P. Cote to get up for Saturday night's Penguins game against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman spent the previous five seasons patrolling the Bulldogs blueline before being let go at the end of last year.
Hamilton might be re-thinking that decision to not re-sign the Cote right about now.
Cote's goal with seven minutes left in regulation turned out to be the game-winner, as the Penguins posted a 3-2 win against the Bulldogs on Saturday night before a crowd of 8,078 at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza.
The win was the seventh in a row for the Penguins (34-16-1-2), who now trail the Hershey Bears (35-16-0-4) by just three points in the East Division standings with two games in hand. The Bears dropped their fourth straight contest on Saturday, falling to the Norfolk Admirals, 5-4.
Cote's joy at scoring against his former team was evident after the game.
"I couldn't picture a better end out there," he said. "It was great to give it a little bit to these guys.
"I don't haven anything against these guys, I love everybody over there, but when it comes down to playing on the ice there's no friends. And for sure, there's a little something more when you play your old team."
With the score knotted at 2-2, Jeff Taffe dug a puck out of a scrum on the near boards, then hit Cote with a cross-ice pass at the point. His rising slapshot sailed over the right shoulder of Cedrick Desjardins for Cote's second goal of the season.
"I tried to find the open area," Cote said of the play. "I shot it at the net. I would be lying if I said I picked that exact spot to put it in."
With the goal, Cote became the 13th different Penguin to score in the past four games.
"We have very, very good depth to this team. Our fourth line can score, our third line can score, and they can really play well defensively, they can play well offensively," said Cote. "I've been in and out of the lineup, we have eight really solid D, and solid goaltending as well. But goals have been coming from everywhere and that's the sign of a good team."
The Penguins were buoyed by the return of Luca Caputi, who was reassigned to the team late Friday after a five-game stint in Pittsburgh. The high-scoring rookie took a Connor James feed from behind the net and wristed home his 14th of the season 4:41 into the game to give the home club the early lead.
Hamilton struck back twice though, as Chad Anderson's shot from the slot sailed through traffic and past John Curry's glove hand for his fourth of the year at 11:59,
Tyler Shelast put the Bulldogs in front two-and-a-half minutes later, getting the jump on Connor James during a first period power play and shoveling the puck over Curry's right shoulder for his first goal of the season.
It was a netminder's duel in the second frame, as both Desjardins and Curry turned aside 10 shots apiece.
But Desjardins stumbled on a fluttering shot by Ben Lovejoy, and couldn't regroup in time to cover the open net, giving Tim Wallace plenty of room to bury his 10th goal of the year at 5:49 of the third. Seven minutes later, Cote iced the game to extend the team's season-high winning streak.
NOTES: Connor James picked up an assist on Caputi's first period goal, giving him 100 points in a Penguins uniform...John Curry picked up his 20th win of the season, making him the first Penguins goaltender to post back-to-back 20 win campaigns...Mark Letestu failed to convert on a second period penalty shot after being hauled down on the way to the net, making the Penguins 0-for-3 on the season in penalty shot attempts and 1-for-19 all-time.