Cowabunga! Who's ready for hockey? pic.twitter.com/LYgPxJl3RG— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 25, 2018
Gotta love the ‘80s style graphic for the Penguins “80s night” theme. The only lineup change is Ian Cole is playing in the place of Matt Hunwick who may have been injured during practice on Wednesday. Matt Murray is also back in uniform for the first time after his father’s passing but serving only as the backup.
I mean this really brings fans of a certain age back to simpler times..
And for the Minnesota Wild the starters are:
The Pens strike first with Dominik Simon getting his second goal in as many games on a Sidney Crosby pass (a point that pushes Crosby by Jaromir Jagr for 2nd place in franchise scoring history). But the real play was made by Ian Cole - with the Pens losing possession in the offensive zone, Cole wisely and authoritatively stepped up and helped regain possession before the Wild could clear the zone.
Then next thing you know, puck gets to Crosby he finds Simon (wisely in a shooting position) and it’s in the net. Subtle but great play by Cole to make it all possible.
Fun fact: Dominik Simon has goals in back-to-back games and three-straight home games. The kid can play! pic.twitter.com/jCBd8cB3h7— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 26, 2018
Things continued to go well, Pittsburgh got a power play so Pittsburgh does what they do on a power play: score goals better than anyone else in the league. This one is a fluke, Crosby passes down to Evgeni Malkin who whips around the net and pushes out a centering pass. The puck clicks off defender Ryan Suter then goalie Devan Dubnyk’s skate and into the net. 2-0 Pens
Some good luck there for Malkin’s team high 22nd of the season, but good luck tends to follow players around when they’re tossing pucks around dangerous areas.
The Wild get a power play of their own later but can’t cash in.
Shots end 15-6 Pittsburgh in a very good first period for the Pens any way you want to slice it.
Kris Letang heads to the penalty box early in the period but the Pittsburgh PK does the job again.
The period clunks along until the Pens 3rd line (Guentzel-Sheahan-Kessel) has a dominant shift in the offensive zone, thanks in part to Cole and Oleksiak too. The Pens start a change on the fly and get Malkin on the ice, he gets the puck and makes a wonderful pass back to the trailer stepping up in the zone who is....Carl Hagelin? Scoring a goal with the goalie in the net? Could it be? It is! And it’s now 3-0 Pens.
A minute later the good times keep rollin’ and the Pens play a little tic-tac-toe. Crosby starts a rush, passes to Hagelin one-touches back to Crosby who one-touches to a streaking Brian Dumoulin. Poor Dubnyk has no idea what’s going on and Dumo buries the puck into an open net. It’ll be the end of the night for Dubnyk as backup Alex Stalock enters the game. 4-0 Pens.
Tic-tac-toe, four goals in a row. pic.twitter.com/JtQoF9dUtJ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 26, 2018
Minnesota gets a power play when Patric Hornqvist closes his hand on the puck, and they score with a point shot....But wait Pittsburgh challenges for goalie interference as the Wild player scrapes his skate in the crease to knock DeSmith’s stick away. The refs agree with the Pens and the score stays 4-0.
A bit later, Simon closes HIS hand on the puck and just like that 2 obscure penalties in just a few minutes. This time however Minnesota doesn’t come close to scoring, legally or not.
Shots end 9-6 in the period in favor of Pittsburgh (not bad considering they were shorthanded 6 full minutes and on the power play 0:00) and score is a commanding 4-0.
The Penguins get their second power play of the game and the Penguins get their second power play goal of the game. And again it’s Malkin with a pass attempt that hits Ryan Suter’s skate and goes in. 5-0 just like that.
Evgeni Malkin tallies his second power-play goal of the night and his 23rd goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/0cSNiSFLik— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 26, 2018
0:50 later, Pittsburgh strikes again. Simon with his second of the game to blow it open 6-0.
Then maybe a little lazy, a little sloppy and the Wild snap off 3 straight goals. First Eric Staal finds a loose puck and flings it up over the shoulder of DeSmith.
Eric Staal with his 20th goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/1aOm4KI3Yr— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) January 26, 2018
Then Mikael Granlund scores on a power play to make it 6-2.
Jonas Brodin gets his disallowed goal back to add a 3rd goal in a span of just 3:03 for Minnesota to make it 6-3.
That’s as close as they got though and luckily the comeback effort stalled out.
- The more you see of Dominik Simon, the more you have to like him. Many talk about small things he does well, and he read the play well on his 3rd straight home game with a goal to be ready on a turnover for the puck. When you play with Crosby the puck will find you and quickly, Simon was ready for it and got a nice shot away too.
- We harped on it enough above, but the play Cole made on the first goal isn’t one that Pens defenders make too often. Surely Mike Sullivan has his reasons why he wants to see Hunwick and Jamie Oleksiak on the bottom pairing right now, but it remains difficult to see how/why a coach wouldn’t think Cole is a top-6 worthy guy of getting a jersey every game.
- In the 2nd period the Pens challenged and erased a Wild goal with the slightest of interference plays. One one hand, yeah there was some contact in the crease between the MIN player and the goalie’s stick. On the other hand, we’re on record despising ticky-tack stuff that takes goals out of the game. It should be “no goal” by letter of the law, but the rules for it are pretty pedantic and bad. Pittsburgh’s gotten burned to take away goals for the slightest of contact so it evens out, but man, would rather just encourage offense even at giving goalie’s a little more adversity.
- Dumoulin was skating awesome to join the rush on the goal he scored, then later in the period he read more open ice and somehow was in front of the forwards so he hopped in on a 2-on-1 with Kessel. Phil fed him a nice pass and Dumo tried to goal 5-hole on Stalock. Didn’t quite work but go ahead offensive dyanmo Brian Dumoulin.
- It will go a bit unnoticed in the blowout, but the Pens went 2/2 on the power play and their PK was 4/4 while the game was competitive (before conceding a goal in the 3rd when it wasn’t). Malkin’s first PP goal made the score 2-0 and then they had a few kills while the score was close to keep it that way. So the special teams were important and another aspect the Pens dominated.
- Looked like Malkin was trying to set Crosby up for his 400th on Suter’s second own goal of the night.
Wonderful night for Pittsburgh. Sure looks like they found a switch and hit it about 11 games ago. Calendar turned to 2018 and they got real serious. Minnesota was reduced to mere spectators in this one. Now the team gets an All-Star break but at this rate and the way they’re playing, you almost wish they could keep rolling. Oh well.