It was the long-anticipated debut of Erik Gudbranson in a Penguins jersey as the Pens began the first half of a back-to-back road stretch in America’s saddest sports city. Sorry, Buffalo. Cleveland at least had LeBron.
It was also a fun day on Twitter dot com discussing whether former AGM, now Sabres GM, Jason Botterill was the straw that stirred the drink in Pittsburgh. Impossible to say, really.
Similar lineup to CBJ, only minus Ruhwedel and Rust, both…day-to-day? Again, impossible to say. Dumo and Letang progressing, but did not make the trip. Let’s dig in and survive here gang.
Murr in the cage.
Pens put themselves behind the eight ball early. Just over three minutes in, a bad turn over by Pettersson went right to the stick of Jack Eichel. Trying to get a pass to 87 with two forecheckers bearing down, he just misses the mark. Eichel has all day and absolutely wires one past Murr.
Bad turnover, but Sid’s gotta do a little more to D up on Eichel. Not the strongest goal for Murr to let go, but let’s remember the guy shooting it. It may be Buffalo, but Eichel is rounding in form just like his counterparts McJesus and Matthews.
However, less than a minute later it was Nick Bjugstad not even bothering to ask us, the Sabres, his teammates and most especially Linus Ullmark if he should snipe. (Just a delayed reaction here, Nick, yes. You should always snipe)
Dom Simon, who is actually good, would bump the puck up to Riikola at the point, the play appeared to be a bit broken as Juuso tried to put the puck deep to McCann, but he just didn’t get enough on it. No matter, as Jugs would go full Leeroy Jenkins and do this himself. He’d attack McCabe (not that one) head on and using him as a bit of a screen would go short-side shelf on Charlie Brown’s best friend to tie this bitch up.
Full marks to Bjugstad for noticing Larsson lost his footing, giving him the space to get to the cage. The safe play would’ve been to work it to McCann for the give-and-go, but Jugs notices he has loads of space and takes full advantage.
One of the best chances of the period came from….Jack Johnson. Do not adjust your iPhones, Androids or laptop computers, folks, because it’s true. Unreal back pressure from Hornqvist leads to a turnover to Sid, and 87 waits….and waits….and waits….and to JJ’s credit, he finds the seam. Ullmark makes the save with his dome and we stayed tied at one.
You make saves however you can and JJ73 put that where it needed to go. Nothing you can do.
With Garrett Wilson in the both for roughing up Sam Reinhart, Murr would come up large against one of the best scorers in the game. With the puck pinned deep, Johnson and Trotman went to work. Joined by ZAR, a failed clearing attempt would land right on the stick of Jeff Skinner. Murr went aggressive and it paid off. Stonewall Jackson City.
Zero idea what Trotman is doing, but that would be foreshadowing as they say in the business.
Montour the newly acquired defenseman for Buffalo would work it down low to Okposo and once that happened, Okposo is in a low-danger area. He’s not Sidney Crosby or Mario Lemieux so he is not a threat. However, for whatever reason, Trotman drops to the ice to close the lane to Sheary, rather than stay on his feet and close the lane. With both JJ73 committed and Trotman prone in Murr’s crease, Sheary delays just enough to take a pass from Okposo and makes no mistake.
Trotman’s recovery acts as a “screen,” forcing Murray to play deep in his net, giving Sheary way more to shoot at than Murr would like.
Sheary’s goal was the Sabres’ seventh shot of the period. It would be their last.
Following the goal, the Penguins took over. During a 4-on-4 situation, Sid, Kessel and yes, Jack Johnson, would team up for a play that would leave Phil Kessel SMH-ing.
Johnson carried the mail through the neutral zone, dropped it to Sid in the Sabres end. From there Sid fired it on net, Ullmark kicked the rebound to JJ73 in the corner and he smartly banked it off Ullmark right to Phil and a desperation play by Ristolainen put the puck into the netting.
Pens would end the period down 2-1, but controlling the play at evens. Holding 67% of the shot share as well as getting four high-danger chances to the Sabres one is a good way to win a hockey game, but sometimes this sport is a cruel mistress.
The Pens would pick up right where they left off in the first by absolutely dominating the Sabres. They continued to knock at the door and finally, with Scott Wilson in the box for a four minute high sticking penalty, the Penguins would kick that goddamn door down.
First half of the four minute power play, Patric Hornqvist went to work in his office right in Ullmark’s mouth. Sid, noticing the big Swede was heading to the front slowed the play down, allowing a lane to open up to Run the Jultz. He fed RTJ, RTJ stepped into one and Hornqvist got himself off the schneid and on to the scoresheet.
700th NHL for Mr. Irrelevant, Patric Hornqvist. Pretty good for the 230th overall pick in the 2005 draft.
Scoring in under two minutes meant the Pens remained on the man advantage and they went right back to work.
I’ll just let the video tell the story.
Get all the way real, Sid.
That goal puts Crosby even with Jagr on the Pens all-time goals list. Now just behind Mario Lemieux.
The period slipped away and the Pens would remain in the lead. Much like the first, the Pens had 57% of the shot share at evens and another four high-danger chances at 5v5. This time, they had a well-earned lead.
The Pens would have the lions share of the chances in the third, but to Ullmark’s credit, he would make eight very tough saves. He would end the night with 41 in total. You can bitch, moan and complain about blown leads (whoops, spoiler) and the like, but Ullmark was the difference maker in this one.
With under 30 seconds remaining on a Penguins PK, Marcus Pettersson would make what could be described as the play of his life.
With the Sabres missing the net, the puck would bounce off the back boards right to Jeff Skinner. Murr challenged the shooter, as he should, but this bounce put him out to lunch and gave Skinner a yawning cage. Pettersson was having none of that bullshit.
Finally, with just about 2:30 remaining, the Sabres would breakthrough.
Montour would send a seeing eye shot through a mess of bodies and it would find its way past Murray.
We are very much the Blog Boys Online Security Force for Matthew Murray, but there is no two ways about this – he’s gotta stop that. Conor Sheary and his dipshit pronunciation stand maybe three inches above a garden gnome. He’s not setting a screen. Murr has to stop that.
To overtime we went.
Fuck off, they were offsides.
Dahlin was a mile offsides, but who cares? Video review isn’t a thing, oh wait, yes it is. Following that play Sheary would wire one past Murr for the winner.
- What’s the point of video review or offsides if you’re not going to reverse that? Listen, I think offsides is a really outdated rule. Abolishing it would increase offense, but also not have much of an effect because cherry-picking puts you at a disadvantage. However, if we’re instituting video review to get rid of human error, then that goal needed called back. Period, end of story. Dahlin entered the zone before the puck, that’s the textbook definition of offsides.
- As stated earlier, full marks to Ullmark. Guy made 41 saves and a lot of them were quality. For 55 minutes the Pens absolutely suffocated the Sabres. Ullmark made the difference.
- Penalty kill needs to be better. Full stop.
- Quietly strong game for Gudbranson. He definitely got walked at one point in the third, but with a 74% CF at evens, that’s a good debut. Doubt it keeps up given his history, but wouldn’t that be a pleasant surprise?
- Phil Kessel, man. Dude is doing everything but scoring. The narrative is inevitably going to be that he needs to score, which yes he does, but he’s getting chances left and right and they just aren’t falling. Way she goes sometimes.
- Montreal in like 12 minutes. Buckle up, Pens out of the playoffs.