The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to bounce back and rebound from a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last night, with a win over them tonight. They owed the win largely to a couple of fringe occurrences; two goals from defensemen and a solid outing from a backup goalie stopping shots on the penalty kill.
Either way, after a bad night out last night, they’ll take it. The game didn’t start well, just three minutes in Robert Bortuzzo took a penalty and then Justin Faulk scored for Carolina on the ensuing PP. Luckily the Pens would bounce back quickly, Evgeni Malkin circled the net with the puck and found Chris Kunitz in a shooting position. Kunitz would score his first goal in 12 games to tie the game at 1.
Then, just a few minutes later Bortuzzo redeemed himself, skating with the puck from his own blueline all the way into the Hurricanes zone and beating Anton Khudobin for a goal. Terrible effort for the Carolina defenders, who basically parted like the red sea for Bortuzzo, but hey, he had to make the play and he made it with confidence for what ended up putting the Pens up for good 5:32 into the game.
From there, Thomas Greiss took over, the Pens would go on to kill 4 more Carolina power plays and put the game on lockdown. Christian Ehrhoff (finally) scored his first goal in a Penguin uniform when he gathered his own rebound that Khudobin kindly kicked back to him and put it by him to make it 3-1. Good thing- Carolina got another PP late after a pretty questionable goaltender interference call. With 11 seconds left Eric Staal deflected in a Victor Rask shot to bring it to 3-2, but they would get no further.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Kris Letang was a scratch, after a Carolina player fell on his leg last game, opening up the spot in the lineup for Bortuzzo. Obviously it’s never a good thing for a team to be down their #1 defenseman, but on this night, Pittsburgh made do. Ideally, they won’t have to be in a similar situation for much longer.
- Sidney Crosby got worked all night in the faceoff circle by Staal (who ended up winning 15 of 20 draws on the night). The Pens in general won just 35% of all faceoffs tonight, without Marcel Goc (foot injury).
- The Pens had to play short-handed 10:48 tonight. Bortuzzo played a grand total of 0:00 and Simon Despres only was tasked with 0:30 while down a man. The top 4 PK’ing guys (Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, Olli Maatta, Rob Scuderi) had to carry a heavy burden tonight.
- Those aforementioned four combined to block 8 shots on the night. Carolina’s whole team only blocked 10.
- Appropros of nothing, Malkin (1 assist) was on the ice for every Penguins goal for tonight.
- Greiss may have stolen the show by stopping 15/17 while the Pens were short-handed, but he was also a perfect 17 for 17 while at even strength. Greiss was very, very good in this game. 0 for 3 night for the Pens PP, without Letang didn’t look so hot (with Maatta replacing him). It’s seemed like a while since the PP unit has gotten enough chances to click, and they’re not in sync right now. Insert boy band joke here.
- Nick Spaling on the first line status: not fun anymore. The need for reinforcements and a better option for Crosby’s wing is becoming more obvious by the shift. And, even though Comeau’s been productive, the same could be said to a lesser extent on Malkin’s line. The Pens need more scoring depth, and they need it stat. Can’t count on 2 goals from the defense every game.
Back-to-back complete and it ended a lot better than it began. Pens go again on Tuesday against the dreadful Devils. Hopefully by then we’ll have good news on Letang.