The Pittsburgh Penguins met the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night in an entertaining, chippy game that featured a lot of skating and chances back and forth.
Dion Phaneuf opened the scoring with a nice seeing-eye shot that eluded the vision of Matt Murray due to the 4 bodies in front of him. Ideally Ben Lovejoy and Brian Dumoulin should be clearing up the lane here, but a good reason why traffic in front can be effective. Conor Sheary was also too weak on his coverage of Phaneuf.
Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 31, 2015
Soon after, Chris Kunitz converts a beautiful Sidney Crosby pass to tie the game. Haven't seen a nice finish by Kunitz in a long time, good to see him get this one.
With his fifth goal of the season, CHRIS KUNITZ! pic.twitter.com/shXitrfgZc— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 31, 2015
Toronto would take a 2-1 lead in the second period when a James van Riemsdyk shot was deflected in by the glove of Jake Gardiner. Dumoulin's stick also might have gotten on this, but not enough to stop the flight path.
2-1 Leafs pic.twitter.com/S8q1XGzKc0— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 31, 2015
Luckily Crosby would get it back with his 8th goal of the season by pulling up on a 2-on-1 and blowing a shot by the glove of Jonathan Bernier. Since we've dinged Dumo twice already, might as well point out a nice area pass into open space on the 4v4 by him to start the play.
Crosby ties the game pic.twitter.com/PH6NH2LvSI— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 31, 2015
No more goals until the shootout.
David Perron scored first for the Pens.
Peter Holland answered for the Leafs.
Crosby was denied by Bernier.
P-A Parenteau beats Murray.
Letang can't get his attempt to go.
- Tightly called game with Phaneuf battling Crosby and Malkin tooth-and-nail all night, and the refs taking them off for coincidental roughing minors a couple times.
- Crosby has an extra jump since the Christmas break. He looks noticeably faster and playing a more inspired game, and scoring a couple points early in the game really looks to be feeding his confidence. All good signs.
- Sheary is starting to look more Brian Gibbons than Tyler Johnson..Weak on the puck and not offering much support out there on the top line, isn't generating anything really. Hopefully the Pens look to switch something up there.
- Speaking of, it was nice to see Eric Fehr get half a shift with Evgeni Malkin in the second period, leading to a couple shots for. It would be nice to see Fehr (who has experience in his Caps days of playing a little with Backstrom/Ovechkin) to play up above the 4th line.
- Potential turning point in the game in the 2nd period, at 2-2, Kris Letang makes a long lead pass that springs Phil Kessel behind the defense. Kessel gets a hard shot off, but Bernier was up to the challenge.
- Another potential turning point: last minute of the second period, Nazem Kadri steals a puck from Malkin, gets a clean chance, and denied by Murray, who stretched from post to post on the deke. He's 6'4 and you can't teach that.
- Late in the game things opened up, the Pens were giving up breakaways left and right. Murray stopping everything was very impressive, less so the defensive gaffes made to allow it.
- The good: getting 41 shots on goal in a game. The bad: only scoring 2 goals on Jonathan Bernier who has been probably the worst goalie in the NHL this season. The Pens seemed to let Bernier get some confidence, and to his credit he settled down and played well. However, it's a disturbing trend with Pittsburgh's poor shooting % that they've been making a lot of goalies look really good in calendar 2015.
- Going 1 for 5 on the PP is 20% and not horrible, and even though the team had some movement and good looks, it has to be a disappointing night for that unit. Especially since they basically had a chance for a "walk off" win, getting a power play with 1:50 left in the game and failing to score.
- Team high 11 shot attempts for Kessel on the night against his old club.
- The shootout is about the only thing Perron is doing right these days.