A plodding start to the game, the Penguins get a power play but it’s very disjointed. They do score the game’s first goal towards the end of the period, Kris Letang is on the attack and just throws the puck at the net. It hits off Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goes into the net. 1-0.
But Pittsburgh can’t get to intermission up a goal, Bryan Rust gets pulled off the ice for roughing and in a similar matter to the first goal, this time it was Teddy Blueger accidentally putting the puck in his own net with 40 seconds left in the period. 1-1 game.
Shots end up 14 a piece in the first period.
The Pens get three power plays in the first half of the second. Finally, mercifully, they score on the third one, with the second group no less. Nice play by Nick Bjugstad to move the puck across the ice and defenseman Marcus Pettersson one-times it past Alexander Georgiev to make it 2-1.
And while the goal gets the attention, Dumoulin was having an unreal game defensively, making unlimited great plays in his own end.
But just like that, the Pens give up two goals to give the lead back. First Mats Zuccarello gets his second goal of the game by driving to the net and finding a puck that had trickled through Casey DeSmith to make it 3-2.
And then the tying goal comes with the Pens in a bad way in a scramble. The puck hits the post, DeSmith is scrambling, Chad Ruhwedel is out of sorts, Patric Hornqvist has a chance to clear the puck and just wipes out and hands it to Ryan Strome. Strome fires it home and we have a 3-3 game.
And to make matters worse, Crosby gets the gate for a four minute double minor high stick with 13 seconds left, to have Pittsburgh starting a very important third period short handed.
However, the PK does a great job and when Crosby gets out of the box he atones by setting Letang up for the defenseman’s second goal of the game and 15th of the season to make it 4-3 and give Pittsburgh a lead they would never give back.
Coach Mike Sullivan made some line adjustments for the third and they really paid off. Chiefly he moved Bjugstad off the Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel line and promoted Zach Aston-Reese. That call worked out wonderfully, as Malkin scored two goals in three shifts with Kessel and Aston-Reese picking up the assists on both goals.
The spinning backhand pays off to make it 6-3!
The Rangers, to their credit, don’t go away quietly and score two more goals to tighten it to 6-5 but run out of time and Pittsburgh survives with a very important victory.
- Nice to see the defense chip in with some goals, it’s been all too rare this season that blueliners not named Letang have hit the back of the net. Getting a total of four goals from three different defensemen was huge.
- Malkin’s playing as well as he has all season. Look no further than seven shots on goal and 10 total shot attempts, great to see him firing so much at the net.
- Odd game for DeSmith, he allowed the 5 goals but made several key and clutch saves. Same for Georgiev, really. There were probably a couple goalie mistakes but overall the goaltending was pretty good on both sides. Weird to say that in a game with 11 different goals but it was the case here.
- Thought Ruhwedel’s play on a couple of goals against show why he’s more of a #7 NHL defenseman than a regular. Wasn’t great to see Ruhwedel and Jack Johnson get trapped in their own end on the 6v5 at the end of the game that game NY an extended chance to score (and they did). Have to rotate players but that seemed like a curious and poor choice to have the two worst defenders on the team on the ice for an important d-zone draw.
- Great to see Justin Schultz back at it, he was getting leaned on quite a bit early in the game for ice time, ending up at 18:33 in the game. Getting 18-20 quality minutes from him as he ramps back up should allow the team to shield other defensemen.
- No shots on goal, 2 giveaways and a team-low 9:54 played in the return to the lineup for Simon. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him back in the press box for next time, not a great game.
- Only one shot on goal a piece for Crosby and Kessel. They did combine for 5 assists on the game, so that has to be taken in account too, but….For playing 5-6 power play minutes it would be really nice if those guys were looking to the net a bit more.
- Heard a lot of talk “if the playoffs started this morning the Pens would be out” which would be kinda weird since if the playoffs started this morning it wouldn’t be quite fair Carolina got to play an extra game, now would it.
- That said, this was the type of game the Pens have to win. At home, against a team that isn’t going anywhere. Great job in that third period to pull away and hold on for the win, but definitely one that had to be won.
Not much of a rest, the Pens are off to New Jersey for a game Tuesday, followed by a home game Thursday against San Jose and then going back east again to Philly for the outdoor game on Saturday night.