“Man, the Pens needed this one….
…It’s still unreasonably early in the season to be labeling games as “must win” but at some point you have to acknowledge that the ship is straying too far off course. Last night, the Pens acknowledged as much” – Rich – The Pensblog, 12/22/17
When you’re in the midst of a 8 game stretch where 6 of those games are against divisional opponents and you’re closer to the bottom of that crop than the top, every single second of every single game is important. Every point matters. Regardless of how many straight years your team tears shit up at the turn of the calendar year, eventually there’s going to need to be some urgency. For most of this game last night, that was ever-present.
But boy, did they almost piss this right the fuck away.
To a degree, I get the slow start. It’s inhumane to have to work the week between Christmas and New Years. Days blend together, booze flows like the Ohio River, and productivity is at an all time low. You could show up to the office on the back end of a 5 day acid trip and no one would know the difference.
The thing is, if you’re as desperate for points in the standings as the Penguins are, you can’t come out and spot your division rivals a comfortable 2 goal first period lead, especially if you don’t recover from 5 day acid trips like you did at 19. To the Pens credit, they got their shit together after looking like they were on the tail end of only a 3 day acid trip, which is important because rarely anything good has ever come out out of digging a hole in your backyard.
But hey, we’ll take the two points any way we can get ’em at this point and move on to a Friday night showdown in Raleigh.
Letang was the main notable absence, missing out through a lower body injury and definitely not getting traded after the holiday trade freeze.
All things considered, the Pens came out buzzing during their first few shifts, but by and large the ice was tilted in the Jackets favor early and often. The Pens weren’t even able to notch their first shot on goal until about 5 minutes in, which is decidedly not great.
Then at the 9:06 mark of the opening frame, the Jackets opened up the scoring. Sonny Milano, who may or may not be the lead singer of From First To Last, wriggled his way around Oleksiak to get the puck down low. Sedlak ran a little interference on Malkin, which slowed Milano up just enough to allow Oleksiak to get back into the play and embarrassed again by Milano, who was able to work through the big man’s hit and dink the puck away from Malkin to Sedlak. Lumbus quickly worked it to Jones at the far point for a shot that went wide and careened to Milano lurking all alone on the back stick to beat Oleksiak (again) and Murray. 1-0
It’s almost as if speed and skill (see: 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Champions; Sonny Milano here) is a more important focus is today’s NHL than size and strength (see: Oleksiak here; every other piece of evidence that exists over the last 4+ years).
Columbus looked like they had it all going their way, nearly doubling the lead shortly thereafter with Calvert walking in on a nice play to open up the wickets on Murr, but he got his legs closed faster than your wife. But, a minute after that chance, the lead was actually doubled. It started in the Jackets zone after a Cole point shot went wide of the cage. Seth Jones bodied up on Malkin and Guentzel to whip the puck up the wall to Foligno, who dug in and hit the Penguins on the counter. The center drive pulled Oleksiak away from Joone Benner on the far side, opening up the lane for Bjorkstrand to hit him with a feed to put him one on one with Murr, beating him short side. 2-0
Really nice play to start it all from Jones. Can’t fault Cole on his initial shot- Guentzel nearly got a piece of it and it was definitely there for Malkin to bang home off the end wall, but Jones’ body position was textbook defending.
Just 18 seconds into the period, Nudievara went to the box for interfering with Bake to give the Pens their first of 4 powerplays on the night. Spoiler alert: They’d go on to score on 2 of them, but this one was maybe the best looking one of the season. They were menacing, whipping the puck around and keeping it in for 1:40+ of the 2 minutes. Phil! had to beautiful chances with a yawning 4×6, but was robbed by Savard once and hit the side of the cage on the other. Bob had no idea where he was, but the Pens weren’t breaking the goose egg on this chance.
They would, though, about 3 minutes later. With Sheahan battling for the puck alone the right wing wall, he tied up his man enough for Rust to sneak in and force the turnover, slipping a feed to Sheary as Milano came over to support Nutivaara. Sheary was gone, 1v1 with Jones. As Milano came back on the backcheck, he got caught between going straight for Sheary or tying up Rust. His indecision cost Seth Jones, disrupting him enough to throw everyone’s timing off and let Sheary squeak one through Bob to cut the lead in half. 2-1
Despite Hornqvist putting the Pens back behind the 8-ball with an interference penalty with 7:23 left in the period, Matthew Octavius Murray was one of the few people in charge keen on not expanding the deficit, robbing Dubois with a monstrous save on the peep.
But that’d only hold up for about 4 more minutes. After Calvert was able to collect the puck in his own end, he was able to find Panarin cheating up ice, benefiting from Sheahan falling down in the neutral zone. Panarin and Dubois raced in on a 2v1 on Maatta, with Panarin knowing that Rust was busting a gut to get back into the play. He subsequently stopped on a dime to send Rust passed him and smoked a shot by Murr to extend the lead to 2 again. What a shot. 3-1
Nudiemagazineday went off under a minute later to give the Pens PP a chance yet again to cut the lead back down to one, but they weren’t able to convert on that powerplay either and the Jackets took the 3-1 lead into the 3rd period. Pens owned the period, but couldn’t master the scoreboard. Stop if you’ve heard that one before.
Just 38 seconds into the period, Crosby went off for tripping up Josh Anderson in the Pens o-zone and the only thought going through anyone’s head was “here we fucking go again.” But just as the penalty expired, Calvert hooked up Sheahan and the Pens went from nearly being down 4-1 to making it a 3-2 game. Just like that, Phil! did the damn thing, walking in on the left wing, selling pass the whole way, and firing on at Bob. Another soft goal for Bob to give up, buttfuckit. 3-2
But midway through the period, the Jackets would deal the Pens what seemed like the dagger blow. After they got away with a few penalties in the own zone, including Harrington hitting Guentzel with a Russian Leg Sweep in front of his own net, Anderson chipped the puck off the linesman on the Jackets’ bench to beat Hunwick as Columbus took the Pens zone like it belonged to them and head in on a 2v1. Maatta did a really nice job to get back into the play and force Anderson into a wide, presumably harmless shot. But Murr was unable to locate the puck after the initial save. The Bread Man did, though. Gotta expect Murr to be better on that. 4-2
In true Columbus fashion, they were always going to give the Pens a chance to get back into the game. Probably the only mistake Seth Jones has made this year was taking a cross checking penalty against Hornqvist with 5:43 left to play. Took the Pens just 7 seconds to get that juggernut. 4-3
It’d be exactly what the Penguins needed to just will their way to a late equalizer. No idea what sort of defensive structure the Jackets were employing, but Cole’s keep in at the point set the stage for Malkin to do what a Malkin does, taking the puck behind the net and getting Jack Johnson to chase him like 71 had bag full of cash. David Savard was there too. It opened up the space for Hornqvist to crash in on the mini cycle, drawing Foligno with him as Johnson and Savard continued to follow the puck. With 3 people on 72, it meant Guentzel was all alone on the back post to slam it home and force overtime. 4-4
Crosby, Guentzel, and Dumoulin got the start in OT and 23 seconds in, the Pens looked like they had won it. After Guentzel drove deep into the zone, Panarin and Jones tried to outnumber him and force the turnover. Instead, all they forced was Dumo getting a free chance to show he actually has hands. Bob made the yuge save, but got tangled up with Dumo in the process as Crosby came flying in to blast home the free puck.
It ended up going to Toronto for review and was overturned for goaltender interference. Very suspect because it’s Bob that initiated the contact and got his stick and blocker between Dumo’s legs. Just because he’s in the crease doesn’t mean that’s interference. Naturally, the Pens would have to kill off a penalty afterwards with Bake in the box for high sticking Panarin. Some heroic ass penalty killing from Kuhnhackl, Rowney, and Cole for the majority of the two minutes would see it through and set the stage for the shootout for the second time in a week against these shitlords.
Gene and Sid would read the book on Bob, going fivehole on their shots. Dubois fanned on his attempt and Murr made a big toe save on Panarin to seal it.
- Let’s just get this out of the way now: if the first response after watching this game is “See! They can win without Letang!” then maybe drug abuse isn’t for you. Or it is.
- Sheary’s goal, his first in approximately 724 games, ended a 231:33 streak in which the Pens didn’t score a 5v5 goal at home, dating back to Dec. 9. That seems not good.
- Good to see both Sheary and Guentzel get off the schneid. The former hadn’t score in 8 straight, dating back to 12/5, while the latter went 10 without scoring, dating back to 12/1.
- Feels like the first game all season the Pens had some bounces go their way in terms of the puck going into the net.
- Both Rust and Ruhwedel left the game at separate times with separate injuries, which seems about par for the course.
The Pens hit the road for a 3 game road trip on either side of the new year, starting with a game in Carolina against a Hurricanes team level on points with them at the moment before spending NYE in Detroit and traveling to Philly for another big division game against a team right next to them in the standings. LGP.