RECAP 12: Malkin, Crosby power Pens past Isles in shootout win

RECAP 12: Malkin, Crosby power Pens past Isles in shootout win

Penguins

RECAP 12: Malkin, Crosby power Pens past Isles in shootout win

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UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 11: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a goal during the shootout past Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 11, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s time to get weird. The Ron Hextall – Brian Burke era is underway as the Penguins attempt to salvage any life they have left out of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s final seasons as some of the league’s top players.

Playing the New York Islanders for the second time in as many games, the Penguins gave up a slew of high-danger chances in front of their net despite controlling play for large stretches and a 58 – 52 edge in shot attempts.

All situations, the Islanders had a 3.6 – 2.7 advantage in expected goals, per Evolving Hockey.


LINEUP

Zach Aston-Reese made his season debut after recovering from shoulder surgery. Last season, his trio with Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev was one of the best defensive lines in the NHL.

Casey DeSmith got the nod in goal.

Jared McCann is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

1st period

NYI Goal – Cizikas (3) A: Clutterbuck, Pulock [5:39] 1-0 NYI

The Islanders’ heavy forecheck paid dividends early when Casey Cizikas pressured Penguins defenseman John Marino into misplaying a bouncing puck. Despite an effort by Marino to push Czikas off the puck, he made a nice move in tight to slip the puck by a sprawling DeSmith.

PIT Goal – Rust (3) A: Guentzel, Crosby [11:47] 1-1

The Crosby line executed a cycle to perfection to open up space for Jake Guentzel who then found Bryan Rust for a tap-in at the goal-mouth. Tie game.

John Marino won’t get an assist, but give him credit for his shimmy move at the point to find a lane to walk to the outside.

NYI PP Goal – Pageau (2) A: Leddy, Bailey [16:40] 2-1 NYI

On the back of a Cody Ceci delay of game penalty, the Islanders reclaimed the lead on the power-play when J.G. Pageau deflected Nick Leddy’s point shot past DeSmith. He was practically uncontested, as Marino made no attempt to tie him up or clear him from the front of the net.

2nd period

PIT Goal – Aston-Reese (1) A: Blueger [7:03] 2-2

It didn’t take long for Aston-Reese to make his presence felt as he bullied his way to the front of the net for a goal on the backhand.

The entire sequence is what makes him an impactful bottom of the lineup player and a perfect fit to play with Tanev and Blueger. He forechecked hard, boxed out the defenseman from the puck, won the battle, then got the puck directly to the front of the net for two backhand opportunities, the second of which slipped by Semyon Varlamov.

3rd period

NYI Goal – Barzal (5) Unassisted [13:35] 3-2 NYI

As the Penguins continued to control play, I got the growing sense they were going to give up a heartbreaker in the waning minutes of regulation. Sure enough, Mat Barzal found himself in a 1-on-1 situation against P.O. Joseph on the rush and made a disgusting move to score.

PIT Goal – Malkin (3) A: Letang, Rust [19:42] 3-3

Malkin put my sentiments to shame with time winding down in regulation. After a timeout and pulling DeSmith for an extra attacker, Letang slid a pass to the top of the right circle where Malkin wired home a one-timer for his third goal of the season. That’s goals in back-to-back games for Geno.

We’re going to overtime again.

Overtime

Unlike many of their five-minute extra frames, the Penguins didn’t possess the puck for much of overtime. While both teams traded chances, neither could find twine.

Shootout

The lone goal of the shootout belonged to Crosby as he made an absolutely filthy move to beat Varlamov. It appeared as though Crosby was looking five-hole, as is often the case, but an extra stick handle caused Varlamov to bite and allowed Crosby to backhand the puck to the back of the net.

FINAL: 4-3 PIT (SO)

Notes

  • Bryan Rust remained red hot. After his most impressive performance of the season in their last game, he followed it up with a goal, an assist, nine shot attempts and five scoring chances, per Natural Stat Trick.
  • It sure was nice to see Aston-Reese back in the lineup and doing what he does best. While he’s one of the least flashy players in the league, his style is extremely effective at grinding the opposition down and spending as little time in the defensive zone as possible. On top of his goal, he paced the Penguins with a 5v5 expected goals share of 69% (nice), per Natural Stat Trick.
  • The Penguins’ fourth line of Drew O’Connor, Mark Jankowski and Colton Sceviour is simply a non-factor. O’Connor does not appear to be anything close to an NHL player. Jankowski is where offense goes to die. Sceviour is alright and nothing more. With McCann out for the near future, goal scoring will be hard to come by outside of the top-six.
  • 12 games into the season and the Pens have yet to lead by two goals at any point. This is not a recipe for success, and I figure mounting comeback after comeback just to force overtime will prove to hurt them eventually.

The Penguins are back in action Sunday afternoon when they host the Washington Capitals for a Valentine’s Day affair.

Thanks for reading! Let’s talk hockey on Twitter. Follow me @shireyirving.

All data via Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey

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