Let's Go Pens! pic.twitter.com/z8SySFnl6W— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 27, 2016
Olli Maatta didn't make the trip to Jersey so Derrick Pouliot slots back into the lineup and the Pens are now down 3 of their top 4 defensemen coming into the season. Otherwise, no changes and Fleury gets his second start in a row against the team he beat on Friday night.
Very early in the game Patric Hornqvist puts a puck off the post but it doesn't go in, same shift the puck goes the other way and the Penguins lack of NHL caliber defensemen catches up with them when Taylor Hall puts Chad Ruhwedel on a highlight film skating through him and passing over to P.A. Parenteau for an easy tap-in goal. 1-0 Devils early.
The Pens answer back on the power play with Evgeni Malkin notching career point 800 (and 15th goal of the season) by firing the puck through a maze of bodies. The Devils use their challenge, thinking Hornqvist had interfered with Cory Schneider and prevented him from making the stop, but the refs/Toronto did not agree being as Hornqvist was knocked down into Schneider's way by the Devante Smith-Pelley (who then rudely wedged his stick between Hornqvist's legs, so what's a guy to do?).. 1-1.
Pittsburgh's lead doesn't last long, Marc-Andre Fleury takes a tripping penalty and then New Jersey gets a PPG of their own with Adam Henrique snapping a shot past Fleury after a fortunate bounce of the puck from an Ian Cole shot-block landed right on Henrique's stick before Fleury could track it right-to-left.
Shots 10-8 in favor of the Pens after 1, but Jersey showing a lot more life early in the game than they did last time out and carry the 2-1 edge into intermission.
After jousting with Kyle Palmieri away from the whistle (and having Damon Severson come in and knock his helmet off just after the clip below ends), Crosby would quickly go back to the 'room for some reason. Seems like he's had too many trips back there during games in the last month. Love to see Crosby's passion and investment into the game, but ideally he doesn't get himself tangled up with opponents away from the puck.
i was really hoping he'd finish this off by fully throwing him over the boards pic.twitter.com/TKTKQi88FB— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 28, 2016
Later on in the period, Conor Sheary does his Taylor Hall impression and skates through Henrique (who in his defense, is not a defenseman). Sheary's shot isn't great but he quickly recovers and centers the puck for Crosby coming down Main Street. Yeah, that's gonna be a goal. 25th of the year for El Sid and a tie game at 2-2.
With just 5 seconds left in the period, Justin Schultz scored a huge 4v4 goal as the seas part and he rips a shot short-side past Schneider
Schultz’s 16 points (6G-10A) in December ranks third in the NHL behind teammates Evgeni Malkin (19 points) and Sidney Crosby (19 points). pic.twitter.com/eIayA0fZxs— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 28, 2016
Shots in the period were 10-6 Pittsburgh (20-14 overall), goals 2-1 in the period (and 3-2 in the big picture).
Beau Bennett (yes, he's still healthy) tips a shot that almost gets past his old teammate Fleury but doesn't, and then as things often go, the play goes the other way. Ruhwedel makes a beautiful 100 foot pass right on the tape of Carl Hagelin who fires a slapper from in close past Schneider (short-side again!) 4-2 Pens.
Fleury makes a very dramatic diving effort to (probably) prevent a puck from arcing into the net.
As if having 3 of the top-4 defensemen out weren't enough, Brian Dumoulin takes the brunt of an Andy Greene slapshot to the face/head/visor/jaw area and is down and out. Luckily (maybe?) there is no obvious blood on the ice.
Then Ian Cole high-sticks Hall for a 4-minute double-minor with 5:58, so Pens are down to 4 defensemen (and probably their two best remaining PK'ing defensemen in the lineup as well). Pittsburgh does well to kill it off.
Bryan Rust chips in an empty netter to finish scoring at 5-2.
- With no Maatta, the Pens had no choice but to play Pouliot, but they sure didn't play him much. Just 3:01 total in the first period, and 3:29 in the 2nd period (2:22 at ES, 1:07 on the PP). Even after Ruhdewel getting burned early in the game by Hall, the Pens coaches clearly trusted him more.
- Pens now 52 wins in 52 chances when taking a lead into the 3rd period since beginning of the 2015 season.
- Goals 3 and 4 were picked to go short-side on Schneider. Here's a guess that is not a coincidence and probably a function of meetings and scouting to emphasize that point. (Which, to be fair, I don't even know if the data shows that he's weaker blocker side than glove, but he was tonight).
- Marc-Andre Fleury's probably wishing the Devils were on the schedule sooner than March. Only 3 goals surrendered in 2 games, 44/47 saved and a pair of wins as relatively easy as they come in the NHL (though MAF was solid when he had to be, to his credit). Still, if only they could all be NJD caliber offenses, huh?
- Did Taylor Hall even play in the last game right before Christmas? Didn't seem like he was visible at all, very different story tonight with him creating scoring chances everywhere.
- Just 2 more games until the bye week for Jan 1-7. With the way defensemen are dropping, it can't come soon enough.
- Pens took too many penalties, sending the Devils to the power play 7 times. That will cost them to play with too much fire. Luckily the goalie and PK were good tonight killing 6 of the 7 but it would be advisable not 10 minutes of time while a man up in the game.
- 3 points on the night for Sid, 2 for Geno who are both 1 away (at press time) from Connor McDavid and the scoring race. Buckle up, baby.
- Pens now 10-1-2 in the month of December.
Another win for the good guys. Soured a little by the Dumoulin injury, but at this point they keep getting a ton of points from 87 and 71 and keep hobbling along.