The Penguins reunite “Sid and the Kids” for the first time in a while, and Bryan Rust slides over to left wing. Patric Hornqvist (head) was questionable after leaving in the middle of last game but plays. Tom Kuhnhackl misses another game.
The Avalanche go with 11 forwards, 7 defensemen and play their backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, resting their starter Sergei Varlamov tomorrow’s game in Washington.
A great start from Pittsburgh who control play and shoot from anywhere and everywhere when possible. Some good scoring chances but not much early. They earn a power play but fail to score despite some quality zone time.
Then Colorado draws first blood with Nathan MacKinnon making a superstar move on Kris Letang and then it looks like he fans on a shot but it still catches Tristan Jarry by surprise and slides 5-hole into the net.
But wait, the Penguins challenge- when Letang stepped up on MacKinnon at the blueline the star forward hesitated as he dragged the puck around Letang. That cost him with a teammate going over the blueline before the puck was completely over the line. Pens are successful with the coaches challenge and 0-0 the game remains.
Nathan McKinnon with another beaut despite sorta fanning on the shot pic.twitter.com/DXbLCaF3EH— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 12, 2017
Shots end up 13-6 in the first in favor of Pittsburgh. Goals (that count) are still 0-0 after 20 minutes.
Ryan Reaves gets goaded into taking a post-whistle offensive-zone penalty, didn’t look like he really did much but it was enough for the refs to want to even up the over all power play count at 1 for each team. The Pens kill off 1:12 of it but then Ian Cole takes a hooking penalty to give Colorado a 5v3 edge.
Luckily it doesn’t last, MacKinnon loses the faceoff to Riley Sheahan and then slashes at his hands which is a bad thing to do when you’re up 5-on-3 and make it that obvious. The Pens get off the hook and out of the bind without surrendering a goal there.
Colorado getting more of a push in the second than they had in the first period, Jarry is pretty sharp though.
Chad Ruhwedel goes to the penalty box next for the Pens but the PK comes up big for a 3rd kill. Still 0-0.
The Pens get another power play chance late in the period but it’s not a very good looking one. In fact, JT Compher of the Avs gets the best scoring chance on a turnover but Jarry is there to make the save.
Shots end up 11 a piece in the period and are 24-17 in favor of the Pens overall.
Dominik Simon is up with Crosby and Guentzel to start the period and that line comes out flying and seemingly gets a couple more exciting chances than all of the second period. Not quite a goal as Guentzel’s shot goes just wide. That line pours it on in their second shift with Simon adding some skill and making some nice plays but they can’t score.
Then, finally 6:17 into the period Colorado does score. Mark Barberio shoots from the point, Sheahan tries to block it but it redirects to the top corner of the net past Jarry.
Shots were 9-1 Pittsburgh in the period when Barberio took that relatively harmless looking long range shot. Oy.
The Pens keep going but Bernier is up to task. Pittsburgh pulls the goalie and Erik Johnson blocks an Evgeni Malkin shot and it bounces to Blake Comeau who shoots from behind his red line but his aim is true. 2-0.
The Pens don’t give up and at least ruin the shutout with Kessel one-timing a shot past Bernier with only 11.8 seconds left to make it 2-1.
But time would run out. Shots for the game are 40-28 Penguins. However the category that determines winners is 2-1 for Colorado.
- Nice bounceback for Jarry who got another start after possibly his weakest outing of his career Saturday night against Toronto with a few iffy goals against. Probably important too since Matt Murray is almost healthy and Jarry won’t often have the chance to immediately bounce back from a weak performance again in a while.
- Olli Maatta had 3 shots on goal in the first shift of the night, good to see him pumping some pucks on net early in an effort to help the team get into a better star than some they’ve had recently.
- Maatta went down the ramp to the locker-room late in the 1st, grabbing at his hand which looked scary but was able to start the second period and look no worse for the wear for the rest of the game.
- Rust showed some wheels to beat out two icing calls in the second period alone. Just a random observation, seemed like they were trying more of the long, low-percentage stretch passes in the second, leading to icing opportunities.
- In the vein of random, baseless observations, Phil Kessel seemed to have one of his more physically engaged games, using his body along the wall to win pucks back and also to protect them when he had it. Just looked really active and more invested all-around than maybe the average game.
- The Pens end up 2-3-0 in the long 5 game homestand. A bit disappointing too being as they played well enough to deserve a better result in all the losses. But deserve got nothin’ to do with it.
And now the team heads out on a three game swing to the west with games in Vegas, Arizona and Colorado. Always tough to win on the road but who would have guessed that the expansion team would be the top team in the standings to face at this point?