Patric Hornqvist has an upper body injury and was sent home to Pittsburgh a day early, plus Dominik Simon is sick so there’s two new forwards in for the Penguins. Josh Archibald gets only his 3rd NHL game of the season and Tom Kuhnhackl returns from injury with the special distinction of getting a shot to start with the 3rd line.
For Colorado, Erik Johnson is unavailable due to a two-game suspension for his actions last time out. Also, unlike last week’s Pens vs Avalanche matchup, starter Semyon Varlamov is in the net tonight.
Early on, Matt Murray makes a great save from point-blank range on an Av.
Not to be outdueled, Varlamov denies Evgeni Malkin from right in front. Colorado is the team to score first, on a late Pittsburgh with only 3 defenders in the picture, Tyson Barrie has plenty of time and space to skate up from his defensive position on the rush and use his teammate as a screen and put a nice shot by Murray.
Varlamov stops Malkin again on a great stop, and halts Phil Kessel on a breakaway but soon after Carter Rowney wins a faceoff back to Chad Ruhwedel who quickly slings a puck to the net. Somehow it rolls right under Varlamov and into the net. 1-1.
You Chad me at hello (and game-tying goals) pic.twitter.com/zZzV3OJUKX— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 19, 2017
Shots 18-13 Pens after one period. Total Corsi is 28-15 Pens. But, yet again, the score that counts is only 1-1.
Some back and forth action, Ian Cole takes a penalty and the PK surrenders its first goal in nine games with Tyson Barrie blasting a shot from the backline that gets into the net. Traffic in front and perhaps a tip, though Barrie is initially credited with the goal to make it 2-1 COL.
The Pens then get really sloppy and give up an uncontested 3-on-0. What. Luckily the Avalanche miss the net and in the ensuing scramble can’t score. Pittsburgh looking really bad at this point just standing around and watching. Archibald shoots from a bad angle and just like the Ruhwedel goal, the puck rolls through Varlamov’s legs and to the net...But this one dies just short of it and Varlamov recovers.
Pittsburgh gets a power play but they quickly take it away when Crosby makes a bad pass then Kris Letang trips the Colorado player on the ensuing 2-on-1 to make it into a 4v4, but no one scores and it cycles through back to even.
The next notable thing to happen would be a second Cole minor penalty in the period, this time for holding. This time the Pens kill it off.
But Pittsburgh can’t get out of the period down just one, JT Compher with a nice display of skill to bat the puck of mid-air to make it 3-1.
The teams trade penalties as the period ends. Shots 15-6 for Colorado in the middle frame. Goals 2-0 for them in a 2nd they owned and the Pens were just sort of there for. Yuck.
Pittsburgh shows some fight early in the third to shake off their bad second period, with Evgeni Malkin snapping in a rebound from a bad angle to make it 3-2.
MALKAMANIA IN COLORADO! pic.twitter.com/9NyxxTpabC— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 19, 2017
Pittsburgh makes yet another bad change and are possibly spared a goal with the hustle of Ryan Reaves of all people to jump on the ice and breakup a centering pass.
Reaves and the 4th line keep going and have a great shift in the offensive zone culminating in Reaves hitting the post following up his own shot..Just can’t buy a goal though.
Miko Rantanen scores on an empty netter to seal the deal at 4-2.
- 2 penalties in the second by Cole wasn’t great. Too late to research it but it sure seems like he takes a lot of penalties, and a reminder that he’s not the coach’s favorite.
- The Pens played a great 1st period, but the score was only tied. They basically no-showed in the 2nd period and got outshot by a ton and outscored 2-0 there. Sort of the story of the season. 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
- Sure it’s the last game of a western road trip and a lot of miles and altitude and all that...But at least 3 or 4 really bad, unprofessional changes by the Penguins (see Reaves “highlight” above). That’s the type of stuff that’s just inexcusable in the NHL and makes it almost impossible to win.
- Officially listed with a game high 3 giveaways, just 6-for-17 in the faceoff circle, no shot attempts....Just one of the most unappealing and poor games for Crosby in a long time. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the bigger scope of things than this singular game but it was a dog.
- Interesting it’s Carter Rowney out there on the 6v5 in the game’s last minute and not Jake Guentzel. Another center? Right hand option? Either way the talent discrepancy makes that weird.
1-2 Western road trip, and like we asked today how much more patient can the Pens and their management stay? 18 shots but only 1 goal in the first period, then they played sloppy. Sure some bad luck (Archibald goal doesn’t go in, Reaves hits post) but they were also just not good enough (Crosby, Sheary, Guentzel all basic non-factors etc). Right now, it’s just not good enough.
One Two! more games before Christmas break as the team heads home and gets ready for Columbus on Thursday followed by Anaheim on Saturday night.