With the game tied at 2-2, the Penguins were looking to complete their comeback from being down 2-0. They were facing a defensive zone face-off with 10 minutes left in the game. Seven seconds later, the puck was past James Reimer and in the Panthers’ net. It happened extremely fast.
Let’s take a look at what happened and why the Penguins were able to transition the puck so quickly
Matt Cullen was taking the face-off for the Penguins, with his forward linemates of Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr. For the Panthers, it was Jonathan Marchessault.
Upon the drop of the puck, Cullen attempted to tie up Marchessealt, so that one of his teammates could get the puck. It remained in the spot where it was dropped, and Kuhnhackl moved towards it.
As Kuhnhackl reaches for the puck, so does Aleksandr Barkov. Kuhnhackl is able to chip the puck past him.
As Kuhnhackl realizes the time and space are available to him, he rushes up the ice, where Eric Fehr will join him. Creating that time and space have made this a 2-on-2, with Jason Demers and Mike Matheson (not pictured) back for the Panthers.
Kuhnhackl chips the puck deep, but not so much that he loses control of it, only far enough to try and get around Demers.
Luckily, for Kuhnhackl’s sake, Jason Demers played this terribly. What was he doing? He ended up getting turned around the wrong way. Matheson shifted over to cover for Demers, but Fehr just kept his straight line.
Here, Demers remains passive, not challenging Kuhnhackl on the half-wall, and Matheson makes matters worse. He is in the space to challenge, but halfway into the play, he decides "never mind" and gets caught in no-man’s land where he can’t play the puck but also can’t cover Fehr.
Kuhnhackl makes a remarkable saucer pass, landing it right on Fehr’s stick.
Fehr doesn’t hesitate, and immediately puts it between James Reimer’s five-hole, it’s a 3-2 game, and just like that, you go from defensive zone faceoff with your 4th line on the ice, to leading the game and completing the comeback. Life comes at you fast.
A lot of teams hope that their 4th line simply don’t get hemmed into their own zone and can tread water at times. It feels like a bonus when your 4th line is able to create offense coming out of their own zone and ultimately winning the game for you.