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Penguins vs. Golden Knights Recap: Phil is golden all night in Pittsburgh win

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Big night for No. 81, as Kessel gets a hat trick in a big Pens’ win.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

As expected, it’s the NHL debut for Juuso Riikola and Casey DeSmith is in the net, otherwise the lineup is the same for the Penguins.

1st period

The Pens take an early penalty with Dominik Simon going to the box for high sticking. The Vegas Golden Knights don’t do much with it.

But they still score first about 6:30 in, Jake Guentzel tries to make a pass back to Sidney Crosby and the puck hops his stick on bad ice and the play goes the other way. With DeSmith mighty deep in his own net and not cutting down the angle much since he has to worry about the other player in the picture. Tomas Nosek is able to toss a shot through him to make it 1-0.

The Pens are able to get it back. Coming out of the first TV timeout there is an offensive zone faceoff and Pittsburgh makes it count with a set play. Evgeni Malkin chops back a faceoff win to Phil Kessel and Kessel uses all the traffic to snap a quick shot that eludes Malcolm Subban for Kessel’s first of the year to make the score 1-1.

Later in the period Riley Sheahan blocks a shot and rushes down the ice. Justin Schultz is there to support and gets slashed to draw a power play. The Pens do little with it.

Shots end up 16-9 for Vegas in the period. Score 1-1.

2nd period

First line switch of the year right off the bat with Bryan Rust jumping up to the top line with Guentzel+Crosby and Patric Hornqvist down with the Simon+Brassard 3rd line.

But it’s the Pens 2nd line that strikes again for the second time. It’s the Thrill again, making no mistakes on a breakway going top shelf on Subban. 2-1 Pens.

Phil with the natty hatty to make it 3-1, again taking advantage of the Vegas D playing wide, opening up that middle of the ice. Carl Hagelin just hacks at the puck to advance it up the middle and Kessel beats Subban glove side (lower this time) for the second time.

A minute later the Pens make it 4-1 and...it’s not Kessel? Jake Guentzel gets a crazy-good cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby and Subban is frozen, leaning his weight towards the glove side. But Jake the Snake is crafty and fires short-side, off the post and in.

Vegas shows a bit of life and somehow gets a 2-on-0 and DeSmith is able to stand tall.

Shots are 10-9 Vegas in the period, but goals in the period were 3-0 Pens.

3rd period

Not much going on until 6:25 left, Jonathan Marchessault puts a spell on the pens defense who puck watches, Reilly Smith gets open and with a good angle, gets fed a puck and slams it home to make it 4-2.

Shortly after the Pens take a penalty, Brassard going off. Vegas doesn’t do much with it and that’s about it.

Some thoughts

  • This was the first game of the season Daniel Sprong didn’t record a point, but it was arguably his best game so far. He took his SOG from 0 to 2 with some good early looks at the net. Didn’t gind the net, but good things will come for him if he’s working hard and getting after it and he was tonight.
  • Riikola was solid in his debut. Nothing fancy but he wasn’t out of place, just as we’ve seen all through the preseason. 18:08 played, 4 shot attempts (though 3 were blocked and 1 missed the target), 2 giveaways, 4 hits and 2 blocked shots. All in all, a very nice debut.
  • A lot of ES time in this game with only 6 total minutes of special teams time. All the Pens forwards (besides Sprong at near 11 minutes) were in between about 12-16 minutes played. Pittsburgh is deep and balanced and early on content to roll lines.
  • DeSmith was solid in this game. Especially after the first goal against, he really buckled down in a first period that saw Vegas shoot a lot on him and he stood tall to keep Vegas without another goal for most of the rest of the game.
  • The Pens effort was admirable. They weren’t the lackadaisical team from Saturday night.
  • Pittsburgh got killed on overall 5v5 Corsi 62.8 %- 37.2%. Overall scoring chances were only a 24-20 edge for Vegas though, and they were the ones that gave up 2 Phil Kessel breakaways, so there’s no doubt who had and converted on the most quality of chances.
  • 3 goals in a flash from Kessel. So few players have the ability to totally shift the balance of power in a game with 3 straight goals. Phil did it and made it look incredibly easy. It wasn’t. Well, given Vegas’ wide defense, maybe it wasn’t too tough for him.
  • And, on that note, the Golden Knights looked like a tired worn down team playing their 3rd game in 4 nights in front of the backup. They have on more game in the road trip on Saturday in Philly so rest up boys, end on a high note!

And that will end the three game homestand to open the season. The 2-1-0 record is pretty good, even if the effort wasn’t consistent. Pittsburgh goes up to Montreal on Saturday to try to get back at what they messed up on last week.