More of this, please. - Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo
Defensive struggles don't always have to make for boring hockey, and this game was anything but boring.
You know when you're going into a game against the current league leader in save percentage, things aren't going to be easy. This, though, was a real defensive slog for the majority of the game.
The first period was one of stalemates. While it is true that the Penguins had 12 shots to the Senators' 10, only a few of the shots on either side were truly good scoring chances even on the power play. Thankfully, the one good chance the Penguins did get went in the net. After intercepting a lead pass, Evgeni Malkin skated into the Senators' zone. Eric Tangradi performed a perfect center drive, and Malkin found James Neal on the right wing for a one timer goal to make the score 1-0. The period would end with a fantastic shorthanded chance for Erik Condra, but Marc-Andre Fleury would turn him away with just a second or two left.
As the second period dragged on, some themes were becoming apparent. The Penguins' power play had a lot of difficulty just getting set up in the zone. In fact, it seemed like they wasted so much time just getting into the zone that by the time they did, there wasn't enough time to get any shots off anymore. The second theme was that the Penguins were repeatedly making Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson look like a chump. The third theme was that Matt Niskanen vanished with a lower-body injury after a check from Milan Michalek, forcing Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy to pick up extra minutes as a result. The fourth, last, and most important theme was that the Penguins were finally getting the puck in close to get good scoring chances on Senator goalie Craig Anderson.
The Senators would eventually score with 6:16 remaining in the second when Evgeni Malkin would send a pass to James Neal that he couldn't touch lest he pick up a penalty for too many men on the ice. The Senators picked up the puck and swept efficiently down the ice where Colin Greening would finally tie the game, assisted by Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.
There was a scary moment midway through the third. With the score still tied at one goal apiece, an Erik Karlsson shot went between Fleury's legs and dropped on the goal line. For reasons unknown to me, the referee blew the whistle despite no goal light. Much to the disappointment of the celebrating fans and Senators, the review quickly showed that there was no goal, and the Penguins came away from the affair unscathed.
Late in the third, the game suddenly opened up and became a track meet, complete with a three-on-one attempt for the Penguins in which Malkin rang his shot off the goal post, and Fleury stood on his head to keep the score knotted up as the teams would head to overtime.
The only real highlight of the overtime period was a wonderful defensive play by Engelland on a breakaway by Jakob Silfverberg and by Paul Martin on Erik Karlsson that both saved the game, enabling the shootout.
- Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz seemed incapable of protecting the puck tonight. I hope that's not a sign of things to come.
- Marc-Andre Fleury had another stellar showing, making 31 saves on 32 shots.
- Even though Paul Martin was a -1, it would be hard to say that he wasn't the best defenseman on the ice today, logging over 30 minutes of ice time.
- Brent Sutter seemed to have an off game everywhere but the faceoff dot, winning 9 out of 13 faceoffs (69.2%).
- The Penguins have now given up 8 goals in the second period, scoring only 2. As we discussed in the game thread, that's not the worst set of numbers in the NHL, but it's not good at all.
- 0-for-5 on the power play isn't going to cut it long term, needless to say.