In the penultimate game of the Pens Pacific Division road swing, the Peng managed to do two things:
- Avoided losing 3 straight in regulation for the 2nd time this season
- Didn’t die in Arizona like they did in California
This leaves us with two undeniable truths:
- The Penguins beat a team they should beat.
- The Penguins are now .500 on this road trip with one game left to play.
A corollary to those truths is that Matt Murray is the fucking truth. Just one game removed from his 9 game win streak coming to an end in San Jose, Murr was not about to drop two in a row, making 31 saves on the night.
His team, though, did make his life a little easier than normal as they only gave up 5 high danger shots against at 5v5 and just 7 at all strengths. In fact, they primarily limited the Yotes to low danger shot attempts, too, at 5v5
What’s more, at 5v5, the Penguins only gave up 12 scoring chances all night, with half of them coming from the high danger area. Compare that to the 32 scoring chances the Pens generated (13 high danger) and you get a better picture painted for you of the perfect road game the Pens played last night.
HCMS made two changes to the team that fell to the Shorks in San Jose on Tuesday night, bringing Riikola back in for Oleksiak and Joseph Blandisi making his Penguin debut after being brought in from Anaheim for Derek Grant. Murr vs. Kuemper between the pipes.
ARI – 1st Pd./12:51 – PPG – Keller; A: Ekman-Larsson, Garland – 1-0
Early on in the game, the Penguins got themselves into penalty trouble as Crosby went off for hooking just 36 seconds into the game. Eight minutes later, Sheahan found himself locked up for interference and about half a minute after the kill, Dumoulin and Murray would get penalties for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct respectively, stacked on top of one another. But about a minute into that PP, Galchenyuk got rung up for tripping Cullen to turn it into a 4v3.
That’s when the Yotes struck. After a Pens clearance and with the wide open ice, Arizona worked themselves back into the Pens zone and got set up. Give the Pens PK credit here- they were set up in a way that limited the Yotes from being able to really infiltrate into the slot. What undid them, though, was the movement from OEL and Keller at the point. As they played catch at the point, OEL took the initiative to flip spots with Keller. As they rotated, so too did the Pens penalty killers.
Watch Sheahan here. He follows the puck to keep OEL from getting a shot through the gap between him and Cullen. Cullen is still shadowing Garland here and if he moves to try to take Keller away, OEL likely moves it down low to Garland to create a 2v1 with Stepan on Johnson in front. This opens up Keller and leaves Johnson with a choice here: stay on Stepan in front of the net or try to step to Keller. Either way, he’s left for dead here. OEL puts it right in his wheelhouse, Johnson tries to get in the lane, and Murr was left with no chance as the bomb came in with the screen in front.
Not sure you can really blame anyone here. Sometimes powerplays just pick you apart no matter what you do and that’s what the Yotes did here.
PIT – 2nd Pd./4:58 – PPG – Riikola; A: Pettersson, Simon – 1-1
After 6 penalties were called in the first period, only two were called the rest of the way. One of which came 3:09 into the 2nd period as Garland went off for interfering with Blandisi. As the penalty was winding down and the 2nd unit got out on the ice for the Pens, they were able to find the equalizer.
Check Brassard here on the faceoff to set it all up. He gets kicked out, but as Simon loses the draw, Brassers gets on his horse and seals off the wall to keep the D-to-D pass behind the net from happening. Dong on titties play here.
It completely torches the Yotes PK, too. They had all of their players committed down low and when Brassard shovels it up the wall to Riikola at the point, Arizona just has to jail break up to the point. As they’re doing this, Riikola switches the point of attack to Pettersson, who goes back down low to Simon in the corner to keep the pressure on the PK.
One PKer chases Pearson while the other comes across the ice to chase Petterson. Pettersson does really well here to suck both in before finding Simon in the high slot. The puck movement here is sublime as Simon goes back to Pearson, who moved it right back to Pettersson. Pettersson does the exact same thing this time, sucking both penalty killers in and making them commit to him before eventually hitting Riikola at the center point this time around after combining again with Simon.
As soon as Riikola gets the puck, he’s got one thing in mind: shoot. Arizona was toasted here, too. All 4 penalty killers are stacked in a line, none of which are really in the shooting lane. Pearson went to the front of the net for the screen for Riikola to launch a howitzer.
That’s a fucking shot. Kuemper had to just hope it would hit him.
PIT – 2nd Pd./5:38 – Guentzel; A: Cullen, Wilson – 2-1
Right off the faceoff to resume play, the Pens were back at it with the 4th line doing the damage. At one point in their mucking and grinding play, Arizona looked like they were going to get it out, but a great play by Maatta at the point kept it in and got the Yotes all out of sorts. Cullen and Co. kept the pressure on in deep, eventually being joined by Guentzel jumping in off the bench. No one on the Coyotes roster decided it was a good idea to pick Money Bags up, who walked straight to the net, took a pass, got robbed and put it back home to give the Pens their first lead of the night.
ARI – 3rd Pd./14:34 – Stepan; A: Hjalmarsson, Hinostroza – 2-2
That lead would last until the final 5+ minutes of regulation when the Yotes would find their equalizer on what looked like some harmless shit.
It started after Guentzel took a pass at the Coyotes blue line and deflected it in deep. He was edged out by OEL as he gave chase, allowing Chychrun to cut across and pick up the puck and start the transition.
Off the rush, Hinostroza and Stepan combined for the latter to get a shot towards the net that looped over Murray’s net. Hinostroza picked it up and circled out from behind the net, finding Hjalmarsson at the point. Still, the Pens looked okay. They had all 5 guys back and in front of the puck and both guys in front of Murray tied up. But it was a real heads up play from Hjalmarsson that picked them apart. Watch his double clutch here- he baits Guentzel into selling out for the block, only to wait for him to bypass the shooting lane and hit the net. The traffic in front of Murr didn’t make the save easy on him and as that all happened, Stepan was able to get body position on Letang to shield him from clearing out the rebound.
PIT – OT/4:10 – PPG – Phil!; A: Crosby, Malkin – 3-2
But as OT opened and Murray made himself a fine save on a 2v1, the 2nd penalty of the final 44 minutes was called when Panik went off 2:51 into the final frame for hooking Dumo.
Still, the Yotes, who have scored the most shorthanded goals in the league this year, looked set to score another one after Letang gained the zone. His errant pass up high got blocked down by Stepan and the sum of all fears was realized as Stepan saw the puck chipped free and set him off to the races.
Phil Kessel had other plans, though, making up so much ground on the backcheck that he looked like Letang, closing down Stepan and turning it back into a breakout.
Down came the Pens through Malkin and Letang before getting set up in their diamond. Letang, Crosby, and Malkin worked the top of the zone, subtly pulling the Yotes around the zone to open up the lane they needed to the net. Gene to Sid to Phil! for the winner. Bang.
Seriously, this backcheck is everything. Look at how much ground Phil! makes up here to not just steal the puck from Stepan, but have the composure to sit on it and get the breakout started before backing that azz up on Goligoski to get that tip drill. Unreal effort.
- Shot attempts on the night ended up pretty even at 51-50 in favor of the Pens at 5v5, but when you adjust for score and venue, it really looks like the Yotes weren’t in this at all. Factor in all of the scoring chances the Pens generated and how much they lived in front of Kuemper, things were good.
- Malkin’s “struggles” have been noted and documented, but he led the team with 6 shots on goal last night, including 4 at 5v5 on 7 attempts. He ended up with 4 scoring chances on his own with 3 being high danger chances (all a team high). His line with Sheahan and Phil!, from a possession standpoint, was the best for the Pens on the night.
Road trip wraps up in Vegas tonight before they get a much needed 8 days off. Do it.