Hakuna Maatta. The biggest news from a Pittsburgh Penguins standpoint is that 2012 1st Round draft pick Olli Maatta made his professional hockey debut tonight. Maatta replaced Reid McNeill on the Baby Pens 3rd D Pair. This is surprising, as most of the local press had assumed if anybody was going to play it would be Scott Harrington. Of course, with Maatta making his debut, watch out for the arrival on Derrick Pouliot in the next few days. Dylan Reese is still Day-to-Day.
Unfortunately, the Baby Pens lost another one, getting shut out 2-0 as the Syracuse Crunch now lead the series 2 games to 1. Game 4 in WBS on Friday, hopefully the boys can bounce back and tie it up.
The initial lines remain largely unchanged: Derek Nesbitt, Trevor Smith, and Chad Kolarik; Chris Collins, Brian Gibbons, and Paul Thompson; Riley Holzapfel, Warren Peters, and Adam Payerl; Christiaan Minella, Zach Sill, and Dominik Uher. D pairs are: Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson; Peter Merth and Joey Mormina; Alex Grant and Olli Maatta.
The game was back and forth all night, with the Pens have some excellent scoring chances but they were just unable to get anything past Desjardins. At the end of the night, shots were even at 22 a piece. Brad Thiessen was still in top form, the only goal that went by him was in the middle of the 2nd, a turnover led to an odd-man rush and Syracuse managed to take the lead. He held on strong the rest of the game, but the offense was unable to get sustained pressure and they failed to score. The nail in the coffin came with an empty net goal with just seconds remaining. Thiessen managed to stop 20 of 21 shots, a .952 Save %, so his stat sheet still looks exemplary and he still leads all playoff goaltenders.
Other than the offensive hiccup, the most striking thing about the game was the penalty parade. There were 11 minor penalties called in just the 1st period, and another 3 (one a double minor) in the 2nd. However, the refs put away their whistles by the 3rd. Overall though, the Pens failed to connect (despite some excellent chances) and went 0 for 5 on the PP. But on the bright side, they also held off all the Crunch's opportunities and went 4 for 4 on the PK. Perhaps the bigger problem is who the players were in the box. Gibbons, Thompson, and Holzapfel had 4 minutes each, and Grant had 2. Those are some of our biggest offensive players, so their collective 14 minutes could be one reason we had trouble getting on the board.
Maatta wasn't bad in his premier. Sure, they lost, and he was on the ice for the final goal, but he played smart, content to protect his own zone and not taking too many chances or making any of the usual rookie mistakes. He finished with a -1 (from the empty net goal) and had 1 shot on goal. It was a pretty easy shot, Desjardins snagged it down, but still, solid performance from a rookie.