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Penguins vs. Oilers Recap: Special special teams and a Malkin goal boosts Pittsburgh

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports


The biggest lineup changes to date for the Penguins. 2nd line Tom Kuhnhackl! Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel together for the first time this season with....Riley Sheahan as their center? OK. Josh Archibald makes his 2017-18 season debut after being a healthy scratch the previous 13 games. Defensively pairings are shaken up (by choice) for the first time in a while with Olli Maatta jumping up to play with Kris Letang for the first time in a while. Frank Corrado also makes his first NHL appearance of the season, meaning Zach Trotman is a healthy scratch. Also a healthy scratch, Carl Hagelin. Tristan Jarry serves as the backup goalie for this game, his first of the season in the NHL.

1st period

Both teams play a pretty clean and even period. Feel a little frustrated for Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel watching them play with Kuhnhackl and Sheahan, respectively. Kind of looks like square pegs and round holes.

Bryan Rust hits post but the puck stays out.

No goals in the period, which hey that’s a victory for the Penguins to not surrender a goal, right? Shots 12-10 Oilers.

2nd period

On the carryover power play to a later first period penalty, the Pens varsity power play unit strikes gold again. Kris Letang takes a point-shot that Patric Hornqvist uses his classic net-front presence to deflect the puck across his body and past Cam Talbot to make it 1-0 Pittsburgh.

Not long after though, Jake Guentzel takes 2 penalties on the same sequence to give Edmonton a 4-minute power play. Pittsburgh kills 3:52 of it but off a scramble Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is able to find a puck bouncing off the back-wall and quickly snap it past Matt Murray. 1-1 game.

The Oilers take their first lead, Letang makes a poor decision to flip the puck up the wall, only problem is there was a referee posted up on the wall, nothing he can do as the puck hits him and drops right for probably the last player in the world not in a Pens jersey that you want it to go to, Connor McDavid. McDavid shifts to offense and makes a beauty of a pass back for Leon Draisaitl for a wide-open net. 2-1 Oil.

A bit of luck for the Pens, Zack Kassian makes a bonehead mistake to touch the puck while still on the bench and coming on the ice, that’s a penalty, then Darnell Nurse slashes the stick out of Hornqvist’s hands early in the power play for a 5v3 edge for Pittsburgh for 1:41...And the Pens are unable to score.

However, the Pens even things up just at the end of the period, McDavid’s unable to finish a difficult centering pass (after Olli Maatta steps up in an ill-timed manner) and then Crosby races the other way and feeds with the routine backhand saucer pass over the defender’s stick but still perfectly flat for Conor Sheary to finish a beauty of a goal and tie the game at 2 in the last minute of the second period.

Shots for the period are even at 14, 26-24 EDM overall.

3rd period

Early seconds of the period and Matt Murray is awake, good thing. Quietly he’s putting on a good performance and helping the Pens stay in this one.

Maatta takes a penalty early but the PK holds strong. Then Guentzel cuts ruts back to the box but the Pens get another kill.

Guentzel gets one of those penalties back by working to earn a (admittedly weak) call. But after 2 calls against this period, sometimes that happens. And Pittsburgh capitalizes with Phil Kessel bringing the puck through the zone with speed and finding Malkin who quickly shoots past Talbot to put the Pens up 3-2 with just over 7 minutes left in the game.

Time ticks down, the Oilers pull their goalie and get a great scoring chance late but Murray bottles it up. That’s the game.

Some Thoughts

  • Guentzel reportedly isn’t in the greatest of graces with the Pens coaching staff in the moment, he got demoted from the Sidney Crosby line for this game, and taking 2 minor penalties in the same sequence sure won’t help endear him to any coaches either, especially since Edmonton tied the game in it.
  • After getting out of the box with 13:24 left in the 2nd period, Guentzel only took 3 shifts for a total of 2:01 played. Lightning rod Ryan Reaves (who doesn’t play much) had 2:07 played in the same time-frame. Draw your own conclusions there for how happy Sullivan was with Guentzel tonight.
  • And then he took a penalty in the 3rd!
  • Letang’s frustration continues. A bit of bad luck on the second goal against that the ref was on the wall, but he couldn’t have gotten out of the way of a high and fairly lazy flip out of the zone. Letang didn’t have much a choice, he knew McDavid was behind him and closing fast, he didn’t have time to take a stride or two and make a more controlled exit. He got unlucky and when it rains it pours even for the best of the best.
  • The extended 5v3 didn’t outwardly seem deflating, but being as Edmonton had just taken the lead, it sure would have been nice for the Pens to return volley and even it up again at that point. Luckily a moot point since Crosby fed Sheary at the end of the 2nd period to even the game anyways.
  • We haven’t got a ton of great head-to-head Crosby vs. McDavid highlights in the matchups, but seeing Sid make a perfect assist just seconds after Connor couldn’t finish a play at the other end sure felt like the first good one.
  • That’s not to say McDavid hasn’t been good against the Pens, he’s piled up the points, just for the 2 centers matching up and having a moment against the other.
  • Murray ends up with 35 saves on 37 shots and a very good game. Edmonton scored 2 goals within 50 seconds, and both were kind of fluky with the bounce off the back-wall contributing to the first goal and the weird turnover off the ref and a nice McDavid play creating the second. Otherwise Murray was perfect on the night.
  • Mike Sullivan knows way more about hockey and this team than I do, but plz no more Kuhnhackl on the Malkin line.
  • Special teams carries the day for Pittsburgh with a 2/4 power play and 4/5 penalty kill.
  • The Pens earn a season-sweep of the Oilers in a week in two 1-goal games. Fun, entertaining hockey and it’s too bad we won’t see them again for at least another 12 months........Unless......

Gulp, the Penguins played tonight and they play again tomorrow and that means something very bad is about to happen...But hey, maybe it’s a chance for them to finally flip the script, they can’t all be stinkers right?....Right?

OK see you tomorrow.