A six-goal burst in the second half for the Pens helps Pittsburgh to a confidence-building win, including some goals from unexpected sources..
before the match
Same skaters and lines from yesteryear for Pittsburgh, with the only change being in the net with Casey Desmith going in there on the back-to-back.
The visiting Tampa Bay Lightning line up with this group.
The first period
It’s another good start for the Penguins, who own the puck early and take all of their first shots on goal. And leads to the first shot in the goal. Jeff Petrie tips the puck to Marcus Peterson who shoots it from long range, and Drew O’Connor puts a tip for Brian Elliott to go. 1-0 early pens.
Some bad luck strikes for Pittsburgh, the clearing attempt goes to the umpire and Zach Bogosian’s right. Pogo fired a heavy shot into the net that was stopped by Desmith, but it then rebounded off Anthony Cirelli’s leg and flicked into the net. 1-1 match.
The next turnaround, with Tampa gathering momentum, Pat Maron takes a punt into offensive zone to give the Pens their first power play of the night. Pens got a few looks at the net, but after just 23 seconds of power play Ricard Raquel pinned Cirelli and finished it off. After Sidney Crosby gets a chance in 4v4 and doesn’t score, but Nikita Kucherov does. Kucherov scoops the puck toward DeSmith, who stops it but lets loose again on the rebound. Bad move, Kucherov returns it to the sender and knocks the puck again. 2-1 Tampa.
The shots finish with a 12-10 penned in the opening frame, but a couple of bounces aren’t in their favor and they’re down 2-1 on the scoreboard.
The second period
Malkin goes into the penalty area to get a penalty kick, but it ends up working. When Pittsburgh kills him, Josh Archibald sends a geno home run. Terrible awareness and puck management by Tampa lead to a clean breakup. Malkin measures Elliott, then shoots at low speed by him. 2-2 game.
Tampa is the next time it goes into the penalty area, and the Pens get a power play goal. Elliott flips the puck and before you know it, Jake Guentzel is making a backhand pass to Sidney Crosby for a knockdown. 3-2 pens in front.
Crosby’s goal was the opener. Danton Heinen takes a really cool shot into the area (Kasperi Kapanen could never laugh) and that leads to Pettersson intentionally shooting wide of the goal. The puck slides by Elliot and presents Teddy Blogger with his net wide open. For the first time in 33 games, Blogger put his name on the score sheet (goal). 2-4 pens.
With Tampa on their heels, Big Jeff Carter comes in for the knockout 30 seconds later. Rickard Rakell does a good job of winning the puck off the boards and passes the ball to Kris Letang. Letang makes a great play across the ice to find Carter. Hey, give Carter credit he had the time and space and used them to drive the puck right to the top of the net. 2-5 pens.
The track has been played and after 47 seconds the pens continue to pour. Heinen again does a great job down along the wall hooking up the puck so Evgeni Malkin can get in. Malkin snaps a pass to Jason Zucker, who goes to the backhand and lofts the puck into the top of the net with a great finish. 6-2, Tampa doesn’t know whether to cry or wind up its watch.
And with five seconds left in the period, Brian Dumoulin scores his first goal of the season with good form. Elliott can’t seem to catch a long range shot through the traffic, he’s completely disoriented and completely unraveling at this point. 7-2 pens.
An incredible period for Pittsburgh, they scored six goals – including five in the final 4:32. Tampa is a mess, and almost everything Elliott did proves wrong and the ball ends up in their net in quick succession. With the Lightning also in a row, they didn’t want to use their rookie who played last night, leaving Elliott there to weather the storm.
Josh Archibald takes a slanting penalty kick 13:17 from the end, and Tampa’s Elite Players shoot. Kucherov off the wall makes a quick pass to Brayden Point in the bumper spot right in the hole and Point has a clean finish. Game 7-3 with 12:03 left.
The rest of the game ends and it’s a big win for the pens.
- In a game earlier in the season, we knocked out Mike Sullivan for not using a timeout and the game got out of hand on his way to a loss. The same thing happened to John Cooper and Tampa in second. It was understandable why he was obligated not to change goaltenders after playing yesterday, but why didn’t he try to break the momentum after the third, fourth, or fifth goal of the period for Pittsburgh? It may not have helped, but this is one of those NHL training directions that doesn’t make sense from the outside.
- As I wrote in my Hot Take column last week, usually when PP #1 for pens scores, either Crosby or Malkin will be within stick-length distance of the net. It happened on the night of Crosby’s close-range goal in the second half.
- Heinen’s play in the sequence leading up to the Blueger goal may be forgotten in the grand scheme of things, but I guarantee he’ll win some praise from coaches. He played a similar game on Zucker’s goal as well with strong wall plays and opposing ball wins. It’s joked about in the section above but it’s actually a valid point that “playing hard on the wall” and “winning contested pumpkins” was never written about, even about Kasperi Kapanen’s game. Heinen may not be the full-time answer on the third line, but it’s a lot better.
- Who scored the goals of Teddy Plogger, Jeff Carter and Brian Dumoulin in the same game on their bingo cards? If so, you are lying. Great for them though and hopefully it helps with some confidence. Add O’Connor’s goal and the down lines were serious and productive. A kick in the ass from the psychological impact of a sure kabanin move? It might just be. The ultimate looking mix needed a shake of some sorts.
- Despite Dumoulin’s goal late in the second half, the Pens had a “two-headed beast” formation of 87+71 outside the late equaliser area. While already up 6-2. Help create a goal. Love that aggression and keep the pedal to the metal by Mike Sullivan in that case. This team needs to be fueled this way in these times when they look so fragile, and despite being really big on the scoreboard, given the time left, it was a smart move.
- The Pens just make a bad game for Tampa. Pittsburgh has now won four of its last five encounters, outscoring them 25-13 combined along the way (shouts Bob Grove).
- Over the past few games, Malkin’s streak has been great. Starting with the big guy who drives everything in the middle. Zucker is always energy and effort, and you know you’ll get that. Rust is rust. But Malkin has been really special lately. It’s been good for them to peak and take control lately because Crosby’s streak seems to have ebbed a bit. Certainly in a few more games that will reflect, but for now, Malkin is privileged to watch what groove he gets into.
- Having said that, these teams meet again on Thursday, and it will be a much tougher climb to climb the mountain seeing Andrei Vasilevsky and not Brian Elliott. Pens has completely mastered Elliott.
Two straight victories freshen things up for the pens, but they’re now on track for the next three. In this harsh climate, they cannot sit still at this point and have a lot of work to continue to do. But, after the season looked dangerously poised to unravel just a few days earlier, Pittsburgh completed an encouraging weekend with two wins as they moved into trade deadline week.
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