Well, the Penguins can finally say they beat the last place team in the NHL more than once.
Seems weird that this team struggles with beating the teams they’re supposed to beat, but no matter how many times they need reminded by virtue of taking Ls, it’s just too hard to care about games against the Senators.
It’s like when you go see your dentist and he/she reminds you for the 13th consecutive visit that you need to floss every day. You say, “yeah, okay doc I will don’t worry” and leave, only to come back six months later to be reminded of your transgressions once again. You know damn well that your teeth will probably rot out of your skull if you don’t, but you still don’t floss because it’s stupid as hell.
Games against the Sens are just that: stupid as hell. Yet we have to continually go through this 5 times a year because of some law.
Anyway, aside from a little blip late on when they let the Sens back into the game, the Pens played a pretty good game. They looked fast, they controlled the puck, and they scored goals. At 5-on-5, they owned 56.9% of the shot attempts registered (66-50), 58.62% of the scoring chances generated (34-24), and put up 11 high danger chances, outscoring the Sens 5-1 at even strength (all stats via Natural Stat Trick).
With that, they move to within 2 points of the Islanders, who still have a game in hand and picked up a point at home last night in a shootout loss to the Bolts. Washington’s win at home against Calgary gives them the same record as the Pens, while Columbus sits 2 points back of those two with a game in hand.
Following their trade to the Pens, Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann had to rush to get to Pittsburgh, missed the warmup, but still got into the lineup because they basically had to. Between no emergency call up and a Malkin upper body injury, they were left with no other choice. With the Pens having won against Tampa to snap the losing skid, DeSmith got the start in the less critical game of the back-to-back, opposite Anders Nilsson.
What a ride.
Pens all over the Sens to open the game, out-shooting them 8-2 through the first 10+ minutes, but the ball really got rolling with the 4th line kicking it down the mountain on one of those 8 shots.
PIT – 3:19 – Blueger; A: Cullen – 1-0
And in his second NHL game, the Ted got his first NHL goal to go along with his first NHL assist from Wednesday. Following a Sens zone exit pass, the puck was shoved right back down their throats and Hornqvist got his ass in on the forecheck. His pressure forced a bad pass that bounced around and was held in by Blueger at the blue line. He shipped it back in, another bad bounce ensued, and he launched back in on the scrum along the wall to pin the puck low.
This kid just hounds the damn puck and that’s precisely what he did when it kicked out: hounded it down and broke everything up, held it in again at the blue line and sent it to the opposite corner.
Here’s where Cullen went to work as he had a lane in behind Chabot and DeMelo. DeMelo engaged, got nut megged on a no-lock backhand feed for Blueger to just step into a full on howitzer.
What a fucking shot.
But that pass was something else. Guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!!!! *high steps into a ravine*
At the 9:44 mark, Ryan Dzingel got called for closing his hand on the puck to give the Pens their first powerplay of the night, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
With the kill, the Sens started to get back into the game and controlling the play, nearly leveling the score through Matt Duchene coming off a faceoff at center ice, catching Crosby sleeping and getting in behind for a breakaway, only to put his chance right into DeSmith’s pad. Should of scored.
In typical Pens fashion, though, they doubled their lead against the run of play, just as it looked like the Sens were clawing back into it and taking a hold of it.
PIT – 17:55 – Guentzel; A: Crosby, Letang – 2-0
Stemming from an offensive zone draw, Letang’s quick shot missed the net, only to be held in by Guentzel covering at the point. He combined with Simon to flip it to the far side for Letang to go down low to 87.
No matter how good a player like Matt Duchene is, he doesn’t stand a chance here with Crosby walking out of the corner protecting the puck. One quick stride mixed with his edge work and Crosby generates so much speed and power coming out of the corner, torching Duchene and feeding Money Bag on the far stick to bury his 25th of the year.
For real. Crosby just isn’t human with this shit. That’s one of the 25 or so best centers on planet earth and 87 made look like a slaughtered pig in a minefield.
To round out the period, Garrett Wilson buried Jaros behind the Sens goal, then had to answer for it from Mark Borowiecki because of The Code and also because Boro is a goddamn lunatic that eats screws. Totally normal behavior.
All Pens again to open the 2nd, outshooting the Sens 6-1 in the early going until Zack Smith went off for elbowing Pettersson at the 6:46 mark. Again, the killed penalty gave the Sens life, only to be turned away by another unconscious Casey DeSmith save.
PIT – 11:36 – Rust; A: Phil!, Bjugstad – 3-0
That opened the door for the Pens once again to score during a stretch of dominant Senators play.
It was Nick Bjugstad getting this shit started with some great board work behind Casey DeSmith’s net, getting some assistance from Pettersson to force the turnover. MP28 moved it up to a freed up Rust to airmail out of the zone.
Watch Bjugstad here. He starts behind his own net, reads the Send It, and probably wins the race to the loose puck had it not been for some late 2000s Red Wings interference. Still, the mutant that he is got in and buried Boro to let Phil! seal off the wall in behind him.
Phil! didn’t totally get a handle on it, but it didn’t matter because the Pens had numbers down low with Rust joining in. BFR’s efforts were met with assistance from Phil! to trap Tierney all by his lonesome. The Sens desperate attempts at clearing the puck were met by resistance in the form of Pettersson holding it in at the point and ended with Phil! nearly scoring all alone in front of Nilsson.
Under 3 minutes later, Jared McCann didn’t want to let Bjugstad have all of the box score glory, taking his first penalty as a Penguin with a slash on Mark Stone.
OTT – 15:00 – Ryan; A: Dzingel, Tierney – 3-1
Early on, the Pens got themselves a clearance to send the Sens down to reset. They did, getting a clean zone entry and eventually a shot from Bobby Ryan from Malkin Street. Ryan is not Malkin, missing the net and forcing Duchene to try to hold it in on the far side. Duchene did exactly that, though it was uglier than that slaughtered in a minefield. They call this a call back.
You can see here that both Cullen and Rust pushed up thinking the puck was leaving the zone, only it didn’t and it gave the Sens a 2v1 down low that Ryan cashed in on.
Fifth straight game that the Pens PK gave up a goal, but it would be the last one scored in the second, leaving the Pens to take their 22-0-1 record when leading after 2 into the 3rd.
With the Pens running the damn show in the early stages of the 3rd looking for that 4th, they nearly got it from Crosby on a highlight reel chance, only for Nilsson to turn it away to keep Crosby from ending his career for a second time.
PIT – 8:05 – Rust; A: Phil!, Johnson – 4-1
But off the following draw, it was Bryan Rust popping back up to try to finish the job himself. Big faceoff win from Bjugstad for Phil! and JJ73 to play catch, allowing Rust to again find himself in acres of space with the focus being totally and wholly on Phil! on the half wall.
Rust’s 14th of the year means he is now one goal away from his career high after scoring just 1 in his first 29 games. That’s a stat. That’s a goal, too.
But with 7:42 left, Bjugstad one upped McCann by heading to the box himself for hooking up Colin White, opening the door for the Sens to get back into it.
OTT – 13:46 – PPG – Boedkker; A: Stone – 4-2
And kick the door down is what the Sens did. Again, this one came from a clean zone entry, allowing the Sens to get set up. A comedy of errors down low stemming from Johnson trying to eat the puck along the end boards turned the puck back over to the Sens, only for Maatta to latch on to another rebound and give it up to 73 behind DeSmith’s net.
Johnson has a chance here to clear it. He’s on his forehand, Stone is far enough away that he has really reach to even have a chance on it. Johnson tries to clear it through him/along the ice instead of high off the glass, giving Stone a real chance to make a play on it. That’s exactly what Stone does, stealing it and getting around Johnson. Instead of Johnson trying to actually make a play on the puck, he cross-checks Stone for some reason, giving Stone even more separation from the Pens defender, allowing him to set up Boedkker for the free shot to beat DeSmith.
Seriously, if Johnson gets his stick goal side on Stone, he has a chance at maybe breaking up the pass or maybe getting stick-on-stick. It also probably gives Wilson a chance at making a play. At least then you could say JJ73 tried to make a hockey play. But when you push a player in the direction they’re already skating, it makes that player skate further away from you. That’s literally physics.
OTT – 15:08 – Duchene; A: Lajoie, Nilsson – 4-3
If the Pens kill that penalty, they kill the game and this recap ends. Instead, they gave up a goal and gave these Senators more life than a certain group of other senators gain life by drinking the blood of the innocent. And of course, it was Matt Duchene pulling Ottawa within one.
Off a dump in, Nilsson was able to freely handle the Pettersson rimmer over to Lajoie, who still nearly shit all over it by trying to reverse it back into Simon forechecking. Lajoie wriggled free, hit Duchene streaking out of his own zone and he was off to the races.
With Simon engaged with Lajoie, Guentzel cheats a bit to try to steal the puck. Crosby is stuck down low and as soon as Guentzel pinches, Duchene is free. Johnson pinned himself to the wall expecting the clearing attempt to come his direction, but in doing so, he pulls himself too far away to defend Duchene. He’s damned no matter what he does here. If he cheats to Duchene, Lajoie finds Dzingel along the wall for the exit. If he stays, where he is, he doesn’t have a chance at any stage of his career of catching Duchene. Here, it was the latter.
Johnson gets smoked. Pettersson is caught on the wrong side of Duchene expecting a pass and gets smoked. And the smoker could not have asked for a better shot location to beat DeSmith.
PIT – 17:08 – Guentzel; A: Crosby, Dumoulin – 5-3
It was all clenched butthole city for two minutes as the Sens were buzzing, but an elite play by Dumoulin as Dzingel hit the line with speed turned it all around.
Dumo’s gap here is everything. With Letang to his right and two Penguins jumping off the bench, he recognizes he can drop back a little bit to match Dzingel’s speed. Letang and Simon slow Dzingel up enough for Dumo to get his stick in and disrupt Dzingel and force him to chip it in deep.
This is where Dumo works all of his magic. Rather than cross-checking Dzingel in the back to moving him close to the puck, he gets his stick between Dzingel and the puck to prevent him from levying a shot on goal. With that subtle little play, Dzingel’s only option is to try to circle the wagons, but Dumo keeps up with him and keeps his stick in a position to prohibit Dzingel from making a centering feed, eventually forcing him to the corner. Dzingel completes a pass to Duchene storming the gates, but by that point, Duchene was toast. Dumo’s efforts allowed he and Crosby to steal it off Duchene, get it to safety, and set Dumoulin up for an exit pass.
Watch Dumo when he takes control along the wall too. He slows everything up, fakes going up the wall to Guentzel and gets Dzingel to bite, opening up the lane to feed Crosby on the exit. Crosby explodes through the neutral zone, is unmatched by DeMelo, and slips a backhand feed to Money Bag for him to pot his 26th.
Just a perfectly completed play, but Dumo’s everything here made it happen. Crosby and Guentzel had the easy parts.
And that’d be that to get the Pens their 2nd win against a last place team in the league on the year to bump it all the way to Toronto.
- Unreal game from the Electric Boogaloo line at 5v5. Guentzel-Crosby-Simon owned 23 of the 35 shot attempts they were on the ice for, doubled the Sens up 12-6 in scoring chances, and owned 6 of the 11 high danger scoring chances together in 15:16 together at 5v5. Simon’s 6 shots (on 6 attempts) and Crosby’s 5 shots (on 7 attempts) led the team at 5v5. Crosby joint led the team with 6 scoring chances and led the team with 3 high danger chances.
- Rust-Bjugstad-Phil!, which may be your 3rd line come next week when Geno comes back, was also a very good line at 5v5. In 12:40 of 5v5 time, they scored twice, gave up 0 goals, owned 51.72% of shot attempts, and 8 of 13 scoring chances. Rust’s 4 shots on goal put him right behind Simon and Sid, but his 9 shot attempts were a team high. He also kept pace with 87 with 6 scoring chances. Bjugstad ended the night with an assist, 2 shots, and 3 hits in 16:13 of total ice time. At 5v5, he owned a 55.88% share of shot attempts while on the ice and a 10-5 edge in scoring chances.
- PK needs some work.
- DeSmith with 37 saves on 40 shots. Not a big deal or anything. Admittedly, he looked shaky early on, but really settled in. Faced 34 shots at 5v5, stopping 33 of them. Of the 34, 10 were high danger and 16 were low danger, but he also had to face 6 rebound shots. Keep an eye on the Pens clearing the puck out of the net front.
- Maatta-Riikola had a solid game, too. They played 14:19 together at 5v5, controlling 19 of the 29 (65.52%) shot attempts and 61.54% of the scoring chances, despite starting just a quarter of their shifts in the offensive zone.
Pens are back at it in like 10 minutes as they travel to Toronto to play the #2 team in the Atlantic. Do it.