A sincere welcome back to Matt Murray - back in net for the first time since January 7th after dealing with the loss of his father. Otherwise the lineup is the same as recent games.
For the Sharks:
They’ll play their normal starter Martin Jones in net and not backup Aaron Dell who performed well 10 days ago in a SJ 2-1 back in California. (One of seemingly dozens of backup goalies that the Penguins have made look like Patrick Roy this season).
Game starts fairly slowly. Jones gets hit up high with pucks from shots (one a Kris Letang shot gets him close to the throat, then Riley Sheahan rings a puck off Jones’ noggin). Later San Jose gets a 4-on-2 when Letang gets caught pinching and Conor Sheary blows a tire. They’re saved a goal when Sidney Crosby makes a great defensive play to do enough to take away the stick of Joe Pavelski.
Next play of note is when Melker Karlsson puts a dangerous swooping slewfoot on Crosby, who understandably is pretty pissed off about the recklessness. Crosby responds by attacking Karlsson a little so they both end up in the box. Only in the NHL is nearly taking out the best player in the game’s knee the same penalty as a few pushes in response!
On the ensuing 4v4, Sheahan makes a nice pass to Bryan Rust who is in alone on goal, makes a nice move to his backhand and then finishes it off by sliding the puck 5-hole past Jones. 1-0 Pens.
Brent Burns goes to the penalty box soon after but Pittsburgh can’t make them pay on their first power play opportunity of the evening.
Shots end up 13-11 SJ after one. Murray played pretty well for a guy out of game action for a while to keep the sheet clean through 20 and get into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead for the homestanding Pens.
Pens open the period by taking a penalty on the first shift. It’s Cole for tripping (which certainly won’t help endear him to the coach any further). The Pens PK is money though and kills it off fairly easily. In fact, Crosby and Rust on a 2-on-1 probably have the best chance of the whole 2 minutes.
Then some bad luck for Pittsburgh. Barclay Goodrow (either a Sharks forward or, from the sounds of it, an Ivy League lacrosse player who got busted for an underage alcohol charge) definitely closes his hand on the puck. Usually an automatic call and it was obvious. However, there’s no call this time and the play goes the other way. Justin Schultz bumps a Shark just before the puck gets to him and he gets called for interference. Just one of those days. Brent Burns cashes in on the PP with a seeing-eye shot from the point that avoids all the players and Murray can’t track it. 1-1.
Penalty trouble mounts when Phil Kessel takes a penalty then Letang cross-checks a guy to make it a 5v3 for the Sharks. Just a few seconds after the first penalty expires, the puck finds Logan Couture who whips it on net and it finds a way in. 2-1.
The Pens don’t get bummed out too much and wh else but Evgeni Malkin ties the game with 4.1 seconds left in the 2nd. Nice job by Kessel to take advantage of a lax play by Burns behind his net and find Malkin in a scoring zone. Malkin does the rest and it’s 2-2.
Which impressive @emalkin71geno stat do you like better?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 31, 2018
Option 1: Geno's 10 goals in January are most in the NHL.
Option 2: Geno has 14 points (8G-6A) in his last eight home games. pic.twitter.com/ecjGwpvbWL
Shots in the 2nd period alone are a whopping 23 (23!!!) -10 for SJ. They did have 5:03 of PP time in the period, scoring 2 goals with the man-advantage. Score at 2-2 overall. Pens really lucky to get that last second goal and be tied after 40 minutes considering how much SJ turned it on in the 2nd.
Pittsburgh stabilizes in the beginning of the period, Conor Sheary hits the post with a redirect of a Brian Dumoulin shot. Then Martin Jones makes a fumble with the puck behind the net and Patric Hornqvist is right there to take it from him. Hornqvist throws it quickly back to the middle of the net where Malkin is. Geno has an empty net to finish his team-high 25th of the season. 3-2 Pens with 14 minutes and chance remaining.
Sharks #1 talented but sloppy defenseman Burns takes an obvious penalty, then on the power play 1:04 later, Penguins #1 talented but sloppy defenseman Letang takes an obvious penalty to give it back. And on we go. Power plays cycle through with no goals.
Another Sharks turnover, and the Pens jump on it again, Tom Kuhnhackl makes a beauty of a between the legs pass (Crosby-esque, even) and Rust is on the receiving end to lift a backhander top-shelf past Jones to make it 4-2.
Malkin-Crosby-Rust take a long shift against an open net as the game dies down. The wingers with a chance for a hat trick. Crosby with a chance for career goal 400. Crosby has the open net, passes to Rust and he hits the crossbar!
Puck cycles back to Malkin and he’s not going to miss. Goal #3 on the night, 26 on the year for big Gene. 5-2 Pens.
- Sheahan and Rust have both spend time nominally as 4th liners lately (though as we’ve mentioned, both pickup extra shifts and TOI situationally; Sheahan often used for d-zone faceoffs, Rust with extra minutes with 87+71) but it’s showing better team depth that they can play bottom-6 guys on a 4v4 and score a goal. That doesn’t happen when you have too many Rowney’s and Reaves’ and Kuhnhackl’s mucking up the 4th line not doing much of anything.
- Though to be fair, Kuhnhackl did have a pretty pass to Rust for that goal. Makes up for 2 pucks in his lane flying by him on the PK.
- Rust’s goals were his first in 15 games. He’s missed some time with injury so it’s his first goals since November 27th. Good sign for him to hit the net.
- Rust (Sheahan, Cole) is the stat-line on that first goal. All are alums of Notre Dame.
- As a note per Jesse Marshall, Patric Hornqvist drew the Burns penalty away from the play, his 13th penalty drawn of the season. Another little value-added aspect of Hornqvist that doesn’t show up in the typical scoresheet.
- Hornqvist also put a little pressure on Burns for the 2nd goal (Malkin’s near buzzer beater in the 2nd). Didn’t touch the puck so didn’t get a point on it, but if he doesn’t step up and press Burns in the dying seconds of the period, Burns doesn’t drop it in space to Kessel. Hornqvist did make a great play too on the forecheck on Malkin’s 2nd goal.
- Still odd that coach Mike Sullivan will make Cole a scratch if he can...But if he does dress him, Sully will use Cole as the lone defenseman as the 3v5. Those two differences usually don’t happen in the same sentence.
- Second time in recent games Malkin scores a goal in the dying seconds of the period. Did so as well against Boston earlier in the month. Timing is everything in life and going in 2-2 instead of down 2-1 is so huge. Difference of the game, really, since the 3rd period was all Pittsburgh.
- And finally, what can you say about Murray tonight? Gone through such a tough time and trying time for a young man, and he was as good tonight as ever this season. 40 saves on 42 shots and did enough especially in the first 40 minutes to keep his team in it. Feels really good for him.
Big win to come out of the break strong and move onto the next one. It’s a big one too with division-leading Washington making their first visit to Pittsburgh of the season.