On the 16th anniversary of 50 Cent dropping Get Rich or Die Tryin’, it seems fitting that the Penguins would get shot at 42 times and barely survive.
By barely surviving, they claimed a much needed point in the standings, their first since the 5-3 win over the Senators a week ago. But perhaps the most frustrating part of it all right now is that they’re 3-6-1 in their last 10 after going 12-2-0 in their 14 before that. And, frankly, the on ice product right now stinks.
Nothing is more indicative of that than last night’s showing. The Pens had a couple minute stretches here and there where they looked good and dominated the game, but were largely controlled by the Panthers at 5v5.
Over the entirety of the 64+ minute game, in which 53:16 was played at even strength, Florida put the Pens to the sword. They controlled shot attempts at 56-43, owned 34 of the 60 shots on goal (42-31 in total), generated 25 scoring chances versus the Pens 17, and owned 54.55% of the high danger scoring chances (12-10). And when the Penguins did get their chances, Roberto Luongo was brilliant in defending his cage.
With that OTL, Columbus leapfrogs the Pens into 3rd in the Metro, level on points (63) with one fewer game played. In the 2nd Wild Card slot, the Penguins have just a 3 point cushion over the chasing Hurricanes, too, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Peng the rest of this month.
With his inclusion in the lineup, Sid equaled 66 for most all time games played with the Penguins at 915, finally drawing level with the big guy in something.
In terms of the lineup, the personnel stayed nearly the same, but the lines and pairings changed. Murray missed the game after getting run a bunch in the 4-0 loss to the Hurricanes, leaving Jarry to back up DeSmith on an emergency basis and leaving the local Fuck Murray Because He’s Not Fleury Brigade to celebrate his injury (in some cases) and come out of the woodwork to bash him after going dark for the last month and a half (in all cases). The losers and hates (of which there are many) don’t have shit to say when he’s healthy and playing well, as he was doing, but miss one game and it’s chaos.
Meanwhile, we finally got a look at Nick Bjugstad alongside Crosby, while Cullen got 2C duties with Malkin (and ZAR/Jultz) still out. Only other change came in Dumo and Pettersson flipping spots so that Dumo could try his luck with carting Jack Johnson around the ice.
On the other side, we got our first look at Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan stumbling around the ice in not Penguins uniforms.
Opening bit of the period felt totally dominated by the Panthers, who damn near opened the scoring through Riley Sheahan on his first shift against his former club.
It was “damn near” because, despite the puck crossing the goal line, it was deemed that he pushed DeSmith and the puck into the net and called no goal.
Then, right after that, Pettersson found himself in the box for interfering with Dadonov at the 3:27 mark.
FLA – 5:22 – PPG – Dadonov; A: Matheson, Brassard – 1-0
Despite Rust looking like he was about to score a shortie, it was the Cats and their 3rd ranked powerplay capitalizing on the man-advantage instead.
After a clearance, Jared McCann gave chase, picking up the puck in the corner, but getting edged out by Ekblad behind the net. Ekblad doesn’t have the pace to keep with McCann, but his board and body work here is perfect (Spoiler Alert: The Panthers would score a goal from Ekblad doing this exact thing later in the game).
Ekblad’s work gave way to Trocheck picking up the puck and going coast to coast with it, dragging Maatta down low with him as he dropped it off to Brassard. Keep an eye on Trocheck and Maatta here- it’s important.
Brassard neatly stops up, pulls Maatta and Rust to him, and finds Matheson for a clean and clear point shot. But watch as the shot comes in. Maatta is still shadowing Trocheck, who’s not a threat here. Rust is still shadowing Brassard, meaning he’s not getting out into the shooting lane. Cullen drops in, leaving Johnson to deal with Barkov and Dadonov in front.
Shot comes in, off the end wall, and right to the stick of Dadonov at the side of the cage to throw it home.
What’s so hilarious here is when Matheson takes the shot. Maatta and Rust are out of the equation and you can make the case that both of them should’ve been quicker to get back into position when Brassard stops to find Matheson (Maatta in particular). But what, exactly, are Cullen and Johnson doing here? Cullen sort of looks like he wants to block the shot, then just doesn’t. He doesn’t do much of anything. Johnson, on the other hand, does something, but that something is cross-checking Barkov in the back for some reason. That rendered him incapable of having his stick free to pivot and maybe have a chance to deny Barkov.
Either way, all 4 penalty killers shoulder the blame for this one. Just so happened to be another powerplay goal against the Pens and with Johnson on the ice.
Brassard getting an assist on that like:
Pens got a powerplay of their own about 2 minutes later, but they didn’t do anything with it. They also didn’t do anything with the rest of the period until 45.9 seconds left when Matheson launched Rust’s stick out of his hand and onto the moon to close out the first frame, which saw the Panthers take an 11-6 edge in total shots on goal (7-5 at 5v5). The Pens did attempt one more shot (12-11), generated 2 more scoring chances (6-4), and 1 more high danger chance (3-2) at 5v5, but Luongo actually only faced one high danger shot at 5v5. DeSmith faced 2 plus 3 rebound shots.
Pens had 1:15 of carryover PP times that turned into 58 seconds of 5v3 time after Ekblad chipped the puck over the glass in his own end of the ice, which was super cool until the Pens couldn’t solve Luongo on the two man advantage or the shortened 5v4 that followed.
They were, however, outshooting the Cats 7-2 through the first 8+ minutes, but just couldn’t solve Luongo. This is because he was sitting on my bench in fantasy hockey last night. I’m sorry.
Then, all of a sudden the Pens went from up 11-4 in shots to 11-10, giving way to Cullen taking a tripping penalty on Brouwer to put the Cats lethal powerplay back on the ice with 7:52 left in the period.
PIT – 13:51 – SHG – McCann; A: Letang, Dumoulin – 1-1
With man-advantage, it was Florida giving up a goal this time, with their former teammate coming back to haunt them.
Watch the Pens in the neutral zone here. The aggressiveness and speed in pursuit of the puck is what makes this penalty kill a good penalty kill. They get the puck out and Blueger gets on his horse to chase it down like he was Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. This took Vatrano by surprise, who did whatever he could to launch the puck at Trocheck. His lack of control plus Letang’s pinch at his own blue line left Trocheck with one option: just get it inside the zone by any means necessary.
He only got it as far as Dumoulin, who tossed it over to Letang for the exit to McCann to burn in and smoke a shorty by Lu.
This Letang pass is something special though. He’s drifting backwards the whole time, on his back foot, sucks 2 Panthers in and still hits McCann with a dart to spring him on the 2v1. Unreal stuff.
Pens got hit with another penalty about 90 seconds after getting the kill with Rust going off for slashing Hoffman. Again, the Pens survived, but on a long enough timeline, everything’s survival rate drops to zero.
FLA – 17:32 – Sceviour; A: Barkov, Sheahan – 2-1
This timeline lasted 9 seconds.
Because 9 seconds after the kill, the puck was in the back of Casey DeSmith’s net again. Crosby loses the defensive zone draw, Pettersson passes the puck straight to Florida, and a comedy of errors results that was missing one thing: The Benny Hill theme.
Sum of all fears for Pettersson here. Failed breakout/clearance. Sold out to block a shot, but had it bounce into the slot. Then his desperate attempt to get back caught Bjugstad and kept him from having a chance to make a play on the Barkov pass. End of the day, Pettersson’s wasted first pass got it all started.
Panthers ended up out-shooting the Pens 16-13 in the period despite the Penguins early period dominance. In the 12:40 of 5v5 play, Florida edged out the Pens with 17 of the 28 shot attempts (60.71% share) and 10-4 in scoring chances in total.
Took the Pens over 8 minutes, during which the Panthers largely controlled the play, to finally somehow break through and get a 2nd by Luongo that just truly felt like it was never coming.
PIT – 8:17 – Pettersson; A: Letang, Guentzel – 2-2
This time, Pettersson redeemed himself, stemming from some great work by Letang.
On a clearance, he dropped back to collect, sucking Hoffman in on the forecheck before dumping it off to Pettersson to skate it freely out of the zone, gaining entry into the offensive zone from a chipped area pass to Rust.
Rust immediately sends the grenade down low for Guentzel to go to work. Money Bag gets his head up, gets Yandle to commit, then slips a feed to Letang on the right wing half wall. Now, take a look at what the Panthers do here when 58 gets the puck. This is how much teams respect and fear Letang.
Crosby has one guy on him, but all 5 Panthers are looking at Letang and only Letang.
This opens up Letang to find Pettersson all alone at the opposite point to tee one up. Truth be told, Luongo probably saves this had Ekblad not cut right in front of him as the shot was coming in. Give MP28 his first as Penguin though.
Pens really didn’t deserve a 2-2 game, but the goal gave them life and a chance to hang on, get to OT, and grab a much needed point. To that end, the Pens owned just 45.24% of the shot attempts in a period where they were chasing the game, generated one fewer scoring chance than the Cats, and matched them on shots (11) and high danger scoring chances (4).
Both teams traded off some looks in OT in the sense that the Penguins had exactly on shot on goal on one attempt with one scoring chance, while the Cats attempted 5, put 4 on goal, had 5 scoring chances (3 high danger) with perhaps the best look coming from Mike Matheson, fresh off the bench and sneaking in behind the Pens.
FLA – 4:14 – Matheson; A: Huberdeau, Barkov – 3-2
But on Matheson’s next shift out, he ghosted in behind the Pens once again, this time beating DeSmith from in close.
Remember that play Ekblad made on McCann to set up the Panthers first? Well, he does it again here to set up the OT winner after Letang sends a puck over to the far side of the ice for Guentzel to chase. Again, Ekblad is beat for pace here with Money Bag winning the race and looking to turn the corner. But as he does, Ekblad seals him off, runs him out of real estate, and turns the puck over to Barkov in support.
Barkov gives it back and Ekblad is through on a 2v2 with Huberdeau. Letang and Phil! have the line held, so Ekblad peels back, leaves it for Barkov, and heads to the bench for Matheson to replace him.
Keep an eye on Matheson here. As Barkov swooped wide on Phil! to swing it over to Huberdeau, no one picks up Matheson. Huberdeau cuts in from the right with Letang following him. Phil! also steps in, leaving no one to pick up Matheson overlapping with Huberdeau. Phil! needs to recognize here that Letang is giving chase, but it seems neither communicated anything here. That meant Matheson had a free path straight to the net in behind Letang and Phil! to take Huberdeau’s nice feed and redirect it home.
- More firsts last night than prom night. McCann’s and Pettersson’s first goals as Penguin. Sheahan’s first point as a Panther. Brassard’s first point against the Penguins following his stint here. What a Penguin killer Brassard is.
- This team misses Evgeni Malkin.
- You could make the case that had it not been for either goaltender, this game could’ve been more out of hand. Via Corsica, Florida generated 4.12 expected goals at all strengths compared to the 3.75 that the Penguins put up. At 5v5, those numbers drop to 2.35-2.27 in favor of the Penguanos. DeSmith looked shaky in the first period, but settled in for a .929, 39 save effort. Luongo looked largely unbeatable most of the night in his 29 save, .935 performance.
- HCMS switched up his lines part way through the game to try to give a boost to Cullen and Kessel’s line. Rust-Cullen-Kessel got crushed last night in their 7:04 of 5v5 time together, on the ice for 3 shot attempts for and 16 against, 1-13 in unblocked attempts, 1-10 in shots on goal, 1-6 in scoring chances and 0-3 in high danger chances. Bjugstand-Cullen-Kessel fared much better in their 5:07, going about 50% across the board.
- On the other hand, the first look of Guentzel-Crosby-Bjugstad (8:01 of 5v5 ice time) was promising. Six shot attempts for, just 2 against. They went 5-1 in unblocked attempts, 2-1 in shots on goal, 3-1 in scoring chances and 1-0 in high danger chances.
- Similarly, Simon-McCann-Hornqvist showed a lot too. They played 8:26 together and were forces each and every time they were on the ice. They controlled shot attempts 11-5 (all unblocked), 8-2 in shots on goal, and even split of scoring chances (3-3), and owned both high danger chances when they were on the ice. If that’s what they offer moving forward as a 3rd line, that’d be huge.
Pens have to lick their wounds and head to Tampa tomorrow. Whoa boy. Go Pens.