Hello, Steeler fans. Welcome, welcome, welcome.
Welcome back to Penguins hockey fandom, where you join the Penguins season at the perfect time. Put down the Iron City, stop blowing your load nose and wiping your tears into that Terrible Towel, forget about Cowher and the 70s and join us in admiring a team that hasn’t tied the Cleveland Browns.
To give you a quick recap: the fanbase ate one another’s feet for much of October and November because the Penguins were teetering somewhere between underwhelming and bad. You may have missed this because the Steelers themselves won 6 straight games during those months.
But as the calendar turned to December, there was an inflection point for both teams. Antonio Brown Owned you all On Line, the Steelers crashed and burned by missing the playoffs, and the Penguins won 7 straight in regulation for the first time since December 2010 (per our own historian Adrian). Not sure what everyone was worried about in October and November, but here we are at the 7th straight win, coming at Madison Square Garden in a 7-2 shellacking of the Blue Shirts.
Join us for the full recap, won’t you:
The game opened up with both teams trading off icings because there was less space out on the ice than there is between 166’s thighs. But just 2:55 into the game, the Penguins lone All Star representative went off for tripping Jesper Fast, a real name.
Side note: No team in the league has a roster full of dumber names than the Rangers. Jesper Fast, Boo Nieves, Neal Pionk, Filip Chytil, a Brett, and Brady Skjei to name a few. FOH with that shit.
Anyway, the Rags opened their PP with 5 forwards on the ice, which whips so much ass. Not enough teams try this because they are cowards and we should all start a lobbying firm during the next lockout to make this a permanent fixture in the NHL.
But much like when the Pens got their first PP chance of the night later in the period, the Rangers didn’t do dick with the man-advantage.
Literally the only bright spot of a boring ass period was Matt Murray and the good and also great saves he made (12 in total).
Immediately, the Pens came out in the second looking like they actually had some life after having registered just 5 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes.
And at the 6:29 mark of the period, they opened the scoring.
PIT – 2nd Pd./6:29 – Aston-Reese; A: Cullen – 1-0
As you’ve come to expect from this Penguins team, the goal came in transition. Dumo goes back to retrieve it and moves it north with much haste, catching all 3 Rangers forwards over-committing to the puck. A little combination play sent Letang streaking up the right wing wall to get a bad angle shot off on King.
Cue up the Dogs on Raw Meat soundtrack, featuring Riley Sheahan, Matt Cullen, and ZAR, who would not and could not let the Rangers take the rebound and get out of the zone, setting up Cullen to ZAR for the hometown kid to bury one of a Crosby-esque feed from Dad.
Twenty seconds after the goal, the Pens gave the Rags their 2nd PP of the night through a Jack Johnson tripping penalty, but no harm no foul and the Pens were on their way again a few minutes later through Money Bag.
PIT – 2nd Pd./11:11 – Guentzel; A: Crosby, Pettersson – 2-0
Again, this B came in transition, stemming from a nice little play by Johnson behind the net to seal the wall and poke the puck away and up to Pettersson in support. Guentzel-Crosby-Rust took their show up ice, pushing the Rags back enough for Pettersson to dance his way into the offensive zone.
With the Blue Shirts surrounding him, he slid it to Crosby and you just knew the Rangers were toast here. On their heels, chasing the puck, 87 found Bake at the point for the shot.
Rust and Marc Staal occupied the net front and all 59 needed was a little help from Staal to beat Lundqvist.
From there, the rout was on.
PIT – 2nd Pd./12:20 – Letang; A: Letang, Letang – 3-0
Because just over a minute later, Letang would cement himself as the best d-man on earth at the moment. Just watch him here and marvel.
While the Rags are vomiting on their asses trying to pass and receive the puck, Letang is lurking in the weeds like a goddamn viper. An outlet pass goes awry and he knows he can attack, pinching up the wall, stealing the puck from Buchnevich, and marching in on Lundqvist, who gave him permission to snipe before he even asked.
Anyone that continues to hate on this dude has hamburger for brains and that is the official stance of this blog. Science backs this up. What a goal.
But before you could pop that celebratory High Life bottle, the Rangers pulled one back 26 seconds later.
NYR – 2nd Pd./12:46 – Strome; A: Skjei, McQuaid – 3-1
What’s more, the Penguins had numbers back as the Rangers entered the zone. They got it in deep, Riikola and Maatta pursued, but as soon as they went from low to high, it was over.
Still, watch as McQuaid gets the puck here at the right point. Everyone has their man and is in a good defensive shape. McQuaid’s quick pass to Skjei, though, catches Hornqvist a bit and he can’t get there as soon as he probably should have.
Riikola reacts well, realizing that the high tip from Strome is the dangerous play here and nearly makes a play on Strome to keep it from happening, but the former Oiler gets the high tip just as Namesnikov cuts in front of Murray, leaving Murr no chance to react.
Just a good goal all around. Tough to find too much fault here.
Not to be outdone, the Penguanos kept their foot on the King’s throat and pulled one back 3 minutes later.
PIT – 2nd Pd./15:45 – Simon; A: Malkin, Hornqvist – 4-1
The name of the game is quick strike transition offense and the Penguins were playing with house money. With the Rangers threatening and cycling, the Pens kept their composure long enough for Marcus Pettersson to battle his way into a turnover to send Hornqvist screaming the other way.
As soon as Horny gains the blue line, he defers to Malkin at the point. Between the Rangers all backchecking and chasing the puck, they’re totally off-balance to deal with Malkin here. Both defensemen followed Hornqvist while one forward activates on Malkin. With both D on the near side, it left no one on the far side to pick up Simon. May be the easiest pass Gene has ever made in his life to his 12 and make it 4 to take that 3 goal cushion into the intermission.
Cannot fathom what the Rangers are doing here. Namely Staal and Pionk, but with names like those, what do you expect?
For some reason, Lundqvist was sent back out for the 3rd period even though he gave up 4 goals on 10 shots in the 2nd period. Seems odd because on the Pens first shot of the period, they scored again.
PIT – 3rd Pd./1:03 – Malkin; A: Hornqvist, Simon – 5-1
This time, it’d start from a neutral zone faceoff. Malkin with the win, Maatta with the cross-ice D-to-D pass to Riikola, support from Simon cutting into the middle from the far side, and a quick backhand pass north to Hornqvist and the Pens were into the zone in no time.
The backend stuff to get here was sexy, but Hornqvist’s play at the zone entry was pants ointment. He knows he has a step on Skjei, so he drive right at the other defenseman. He crosses the blue line right as McQuaid engages with him, creating the space to drop it off to Malkin overlapping. McQuaid sees this unfolding and drops back as Kevin Hayes also gets back to help defend, but Malkin’s combination of speed and hands was no match for either of them, drawing a penalty along the way as he willed the puck in underneath of a floundering Lundqvist.
NYR – 3rd Pd./1:22 – Buchnevich; A: Claesson, Shattenkirk – 5-2
However, 19 seconds later on an offensive zone draw, the Rags pulled back within 3. After Brassers lost the draw, NYR took it from high to low with Claesson carrying the puck down the wall from his point position and trying to force a pass to the front of the net. Riikola, here, does a nice job taking away that passing lane, forcing Claesson to try to shoot from a non-angle. As he collects the loose puck, Riikola follows and Maatta, leaving his post at the side of the net, engages with Claesson to double team him.
Honestly, there should be no issues with Maatta jumping here. Nine times out of 10, he wins the puck here, but Claesson slames on the brakes, protects the puck, and throws a nasty little backhander to Buchnevich in the space Maatta just vacated to get the Rags their last goal of the night.
Maatta’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t here. If he stays where he is, Claesson probably finds Buchnevich anyway or hits Shattenkirk coming in from the center point. On the second angle, right when Maatta takes his first steps towards Claesson, you can see Claesson has his head down as he tries to control the puck. Can’t blame Maatta for seeing this and jumping as he’s successfully done before.
But whatever. Less than 2 minutes later, the Pens went back to the powerplay and scored their 8th PPG in 10 attempts to chase Lundqvist and give him an early end to his night.
PIT – 3rd Pd./4:40 – PPG – Pearson; A: Letang, Guentzel – 6-2
You don’t typically see too many powerplay goals coming on the rush anymore these days, but that’s precisely what we got here. As the Pens PP2 got on the ice for the last 45 or so seconds following a clearance, Letang picked up the puck, got to his own blue line, and absolutely rifled a pass to Pearson in a gap between 3 Rangers PKers. Get all the way real with that pass, but the shot was something else.
What a nice guy Tanner is to ask King if he should snipe.
With the end of Lundqvist’s night came basically the end of the game, except Crosby needed himself a goal and the Rangers were more than happy to give him one.
PIT – 3rd Pd./13:56 – Crosby; A: Rust, Guentzel – 7-2
As the Pens top line buried the Rags in their own end, the Blue Shirts kept chasing as the Penguins kept shooting, eventually having it work out to 87 to beat Georgiev (also a real name!!!) to make it 7.
That’d be all she wrote.
- Seven straight wins. 9-1-0 in their last 10. Just 1 point behind the Caps for first place in the Metro (Washington has 2 games in hand, though). Look the fuck out.
- Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby are on different planes of existence at the moment.
- Don’t look now, but Geno is scoring again at 5v5.
- Pens scored 7 goals last night with 2.07 in expected goals at all strengths. At 5v5, that dropped to 1.97, where they scored 6 5v5 goals. Hollow ass King.
- Not a big deal or anything, but Matt Murray has 6 wins in 6 games played since returning from injury, including a shutout. He’s given up just 9 goals in those 6 games on 202 shots, good for a 0.955 SV%. Looks like he’s back, folks.
With that, the Pens open up PPG Paints Arena for a 3 game homestand starting Friday night when the Jets come to town before the Blackhawks (Sunday) and Panthers (Tuesday) visit. Make it 10. Go Pens.