RECAP 43: New Again. Pens Snap One Game Losing Streak, Win 5-1 Over Panthers

RECAP 43: New Again. Pens Snap One Game Losing Streak, Win 5-1 Over Panthers

Penguins

RECAP 43: New Again. Pens Snap One Game Losing Streak, Win 5-1 Over Panthers

What if this blog told you that the 4th and 6th best powerplay teams in the league would meet in a December game and go a combined 0-for-8 on the powerplay, with one of those teams, who went 9-for-11 recently, having not even registered a single powerplay shot on goal.

Would you believe it?

Because for as much as the talk was about how lethal these two powerplays can be, it was a different form of special teams play that powered the Penguins over the Panthers last night: the penalty kill.

It was weird, too, because this dynamic existed for both teams.  It was almost to the point that they both would’ve been better off asking to decline the penalties.

Consider this: in 6:39 of powerplay time, the Pengiuns registered exactly 0 shots on goal, 4 scoring chances, and 2 high danger chances.  While shorthanded, on the other hand, Florida generated 3 shots on Murr, an equal number of scoring chances, and 2 HD scoring chances.

On the flip side, Florida, in their 6:49 of powerplay time, just barely outshot the Pens PK unit 5-4, but were evened up 4-4 in scoring chances.  Coincidentally, the Pens PK generated 3 high danger chances, too.  The Panthers? Zero.

The difference, though, came down to goaltending (and the 3rd best PK in the league getting it done).  Matt Murray was sensational again (more on him later) in turning aside those shorthanded looks against.  Roberto Luongo, on the other hand, was anything but, surrendering 4 goals on 16 shots, including 2 shorthanded tallies, before getting yanked in the 2nd.

Guess you could probably say that narrative-drive shorthanded goals against problem is dead and dusted.


LINEUP

No changes to the lineup that fell 5-3 to the Blackhawks on Sunday (to snap the nice winning streak) on 70s night at the Paint Can left Oleksiak, Ruhwedel, and Derek Grant in the pressbox.  Murr vs. Lu between the pipes.

On a personal note, I found out before the game that Potash blocked me and I regret to inform all of you that I have been owned.

First period

Right from the get-go, the Cats were flying early through a buzzing and threatening Dadonov \.  Murr set the tone for the Pens by being up to every task they threw his way until his Hockey Men in front of him were able to beat Bobby Lu against the run of play to open the scoring.

PIT – 1st Pd./1:29 – Pearson; A: Pettersson, Hornqvist  1-0

And it all started as soon as the Malkin unit hopped over the boards.  All three of Simon-Gene-Horny had their skating legs to hound and berate the puck carriers, even after they lost possession in the offensive zone.  Smothering, they were all over the Panthers in the neutral zone, jamming up the play until an errant 71 pass got broken up, only to have Hornqvist go Warrior for Pettersson to pinch up, deke, and slip a little area pass to Pearson jumping in off the bench.

Hornqvist and Pettersson made the goal happen, but that release from Pearson was something else to beat Lu fivehole.

PIT – 1st Pd./3:03 – Rust; A: Guentzel, Crosby  2-0

And before you even had a chance to buy Sam’s dog a drink, the Pens were burying another behind Lu.

About 90 seconds later, with Pettersson-Johnson back on the ice, they were forced to retreat just inside their own zone to collect and break out the puck.  Naturally, JJ73 deferred to Pettersson to make a pass that traveled longer than 5 feet, which is precisely what MP28 did to hit Rust in stride.  BFR, though, was unable to get it by the two Panthers collapsing on him to get it in deep, instead coughing it up and allowing them to temporarily get out of their own zone through Huberdeau.  The 2011 3rd overall pick was put under by 87 as he skated it out before eventually turning it over to the Pens captain.  From there, it was all over for the Cats.

This doesn’t happen without Crosby’s steal and subsequent NSFW pass, but Guentzel’s play at the blueline makes it all tick.  That’s not some scrub D-man that Bake catches flatfooted- it’s Aaron Ekblad that he nutmegs before hitting Rust streaking through the slot for the handsy little move.  Get real, Jake.

About 4 minutes after the goal, the Pens went to the powerplay for the first time on the night.  As mentioned above, the Panthers looked the more likely team to score with the Pens man-advantage.  Instead, they ran into Kris Letang and Matt The Murr.

Late in the period, the Pens would go back to the PP with 1:03 left as McCann went off for tripping Simon, but again, it was the Panthers dominating the play despite being down a man, but they ran into Matt Murray: Good Hockey Goalie to see out the period.

Second period

Pens had 57 seconds worth of PP time leftover to open the period, which is about 56 seconds more than it took for your wife to leave you for an Old Country Buffet line cook.  Much like what happens after an OCB meal, the Pens didn’t do shit with it.

Then, 2:26 into the period, Simon went off for hooking and the trend of the penalty killing units getting the better looks continued as Rust would score 20:01 after scoring his first goal.

PIT – 2nd Pd./3:04 – SHG – Rust; A: Cullen, Dumoulin  3-0

One thing the Pens PK did really well last night was press high up ice to really stifle the Panthers from moving the puck out of their own end after a clear.  That’s what happened here through Rust and Cullen, who eventually forced a bad outlet pass to be picked off by Letang and Dumoulin.

But man, for as nice as the press was and as nice as the goal was, 8 and 58 playing catch in the neutral zone while totally surrounded with some quick little touch passes was beautiful.

It opened up the wall for Dumo to send Cullen in and the rest, as they say, was history.

About two minutes later, the Panthers would go back to their 4v5 advantage after Tanner Pearson bought a tripping call.  Again, the Pens were out there giving up the best chances while up a man.  Again, Matt Murray was fucking remarkable.

Under a minute later, Jack Johnson would find himself in the box for being a traffic cone interfering with Frank Vatrano, who was definitely a character in The Departed.  [Source: he got the shit kicked out of him all damn night].

PIT – 2nd Pd./8:56 – SHG – Sheahan; A: N/A  4-0

What Johnson’s penalty did was opened up the door for yet another shorthanded chance and goal to end Luongo’s night prematurely.  Straight from a clearance, the Pens high press on the PK started again, this time as Yandle tried to carry the puck out and was met by Riley Sheahan.

Sheahan does so so so so well here.  He pushes Yandle to the far side of the ice, where he only has one player up ice in Huberdeau.  Huberdeau isn’t really an option, though, and Yandle sees that.  Watch as Yandle hits the UPMC logo: he recognizes that he’s being baited into making that pass so the Pens can jump it, so he chooses to try to peel back.  Sheahan reads this the whole way and as soon as Yandle slams on the brakes to drop it back into his own zone, Sheahan picks it and is off.  ZAR’s center drive allows Sheahan to cut to the middle on Barkov and just rifle one by the screened Luongo.

FLA – 2nd Pd./9:27 – PPG – Ekblad; A: Weegar, Vatrano  4-1

The Panthers didn’t falter despite the 4-0 deficit and looked to cut into the lead on the same powerplay through a bomb of a shot from Ovechkin Street, but Ekblad’s howitzer wouldn’t hold up.

HCMS wasted no time challenging for offside, so you just knew he was going to be right.  He was.

Really close.  The skate-in-the-air rule is dumb but also really good here.

After that, the fireworks started.  Marcus Pettersson dropped the gloves with Weegar, who is the end result of Gengar fucking Weedle with that ghost dick, after Weegar threw a high hit on Sheahan.

That seemed to give the Cats some more life, or at least enough to break Murray’s shutout late in the period.

FLA – 2nd Pd./19:27 – Barkov; A: Ekblad, Dadonov 4-1

Ekblad would finally get his goal, coming after the Pens got caught with Brassard and Phil! up ice in a chance that should’ve taken this game to 5-0.  Phil! just couldn’t steer it home.

Off the other way the Cats went, utilizing a neutral zone drop pass to hit the Pens line with speed, pushing Letang and Dumo back and messing with their timing.  The first shot through them missed the net, but as Dumo went back to corral it, he faced a checking presence on either side of him, keeping him from getting a lot on his reverse pass.  Dadonov was able to collect it, shield off Letang as Dumo and the rest of the Pens tried to get organized, and move it from low-to-high to Ekblad for the shot through traffic.

Barkov was given credit for the goal (you can see him waving at the puck just below the hashmarks), but between the traffic and contact in front, Murr didn’t have a chance.

Murr and his teammates were fuming at this puck going in with McCann bumping Murr, so Sully challenged for goaltender interference.  You have better odds parlaying bringing home Janice Griffin then hitting the Powerball than you do of NHL refs overturning two goals for one team in one game.

Impossible to say what goaltender interference is anymore, though.  The referees apparently put the onus on Murr here because he was looking for the puck and his head was just outside the crease, but locating and stopping the puck is literally his job and he was not afforded the chance to do the latter here.  Not sure what else he’s supposed to do?

Third Period

Early in the final frame, the Pens had to go back to the PK after ZAR plastered Vatrano.  This coming just minutes after Letang put Vatrano on his wallet at the end of the 2nd.

Slightly late, but drove through the body.  Two minutes for interference was more than enough.

ZAR had to answer when he got out of the box as Sceviour confronted him to engage in a little fisticuffs, with ZAR getting the better of the bout (yet coming off worse for it).

This time around, the fight gave the Pens the life to see out the rest of the game.  It started with Murray staying on top of the world, making a big save to get across and deny Ekblad on the far post and from there, the Pens took over to finish the game off.

PIT – 3rd Pd./13:41 – Crosby; A: Malkin, Pettersson  5-1

A little rash of penalties again saw the Pens go up a man temporarily before ending the PP prematurely through a Letang holding penalty.  On the 4v4, HCMS threw caution to the wind and sent Malkin and Crosby out together for a rare resurgence of the 2 Headed Monster.

These bad boys did not disappoint.

A little weave action between 87, 71, and 28 collapsed the Panthers into the own end.  Malkin put on his dancing shoes, swooping in to throw a backhanded towards the net that got blocked down and back to Pettersson.  The newest Penguin moved down the wall, putting the Panthers on their heels.

Watch here as Pettersson curls back towards the blue line.  Florida has all 4 players below the faceoff dots.  No one is picking up Malkin or Crosby.  They’re all just in a line watching Pettersson.  As Malkin drifts back, they finally start seeing that maybe they should do something as the focus shifts back to 71.  But when Malkin takes the pass and looks at the net, still all 4 Florida players are watching the puck carrier instead of minding their surroundings.

That gives Crosby a free path to sneak right in at the base of the faceoff circle, cutting in front of Pysyk to play a little Just The Tip.

Game.

NOTES

  • Matt Murray: so fucking good.  Stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced (.973 SV%).  There will be a post coming from ya boi tomorrow about his numbers earlier this year compared to his numbers no in the midst of this 8-0-0 run he’s on.

  • Things to keep an eye on: Hornqvist left the game after getting a puck in the face in the first period after juts 3:17 of ice time.  ZAR, after getting out of the box from the fight, left the game and didn’t return either.  HCMS expects ZAR to be “out for a little while.”  UPDATE (10:24 AM): ZAR was placed on IR and Garrett Wilson was recalled as a result.

  • Evgeni Malkin’s struggles at 5v5 have been documented, filed, and shredded.  Over his last 5 games, he’s got himself a goal and 3 assists at 5v5 to go along with 11 shots, 20 attempts, and 14 scoring chances.  His 53.73% share of shot attempts is 2nd best on the team to only Patric Hornqvist (Dom Simon is 3rd over that stretch).  Last night, in Malkin’s 13:16 of 5v5 ice time, he posted a 62.5% share of shot attempts while on the ice and was on the ice for 10 shots for and 1 against.  What’s more, he was on the ice for 9 scoring chances for and just 1 against, as well as a 3-1 differential in high danger scoring chances.
  • Another cool 2 points from 87.
  • Interesting note about Marcus Pettersson.  In 10:54 of 5v5 ice time, he was on the ice for 13 shot attempts for and 4 against (a 76.47% share, a team high).  He was on the ice for 9 scoring chances for and just 2 against and saw 3 high danger chances for and 0 against.  Of that 10:54, 9:19 was seen with Jack Johnson.  With JJ73, they were a 78.57% shot attempt share pairing.  That’s really good.
  • What’s interesting and hilarious about those obscenely good Pettersson numbers is that Johnson, who played 14:28 at 5v5, still managed to crater his shot attempt share on the night.  He was a 48.28% in total, getting out-attempted 3-12 in about 5 minutes away from Pettersson.  That would seem so impossible if it were any other player.

Concluding your homestand with a win is always good and a nice way to start your 5 game road trip.  Next up: a back to back in SoCal on Friday and Saturday as the Pens hit up the Ducks and Kings before heading to San Jose, Arizona, and Vegas next week.  Buckle up.  Go Pens.

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