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Pens/Canucks Recap: Stuck in neutral. Pens fall in OT to Vancouver

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A middling effort results in an overtime loss for the Pens at home to Vancouver

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

The Penguins go as expected with the loss of Justin Schultz to injury by putting Jamie Oleksiak back in.

1st period

The Pens strike first with Jake Guentzel streaking down the right side and making one of his patented shots to the far side past the goalie. 1-0.

After that, the Pens kind of settled into a funk and played quiet and slow. Not sure what Jack Johnson was doing here with two bites at the apple to trying to block this away. Neither worked. Jamie Oleksiak didn’t look much more interested either. 1-1.

Goals in the first and last minute will kill you - just ask any coach you’ve ever had, and Brandon Sutter is sitting on the back-door while Johnson chases the puck, abandons position and sees this cross-crease pass go right by. DeSmith probably should have had something to say about that one too, but everyone else was pressing left so why not him too? Whoops!

You can try to see good things if you want with Johnson but this is a classic move to demonstrate why his team is always out-shot, out-chanced and out-scored while he’s on the ice, is it not?

Shots end up 11-5 Canucks. Pens after the Guentzel goal weren’t great.

2nd period

Second period was boring October hockey. Pittsburgh got a power play early, couldn’t do much with it. Pens outshot the Canucks 12-8 in the period. No goals. Pittsburgh had an 11-2 scoring chance advantage though.

3rd period

Time ticks down and it looks like the Pens are slumping to a loss. Guentzel scores with a comically high deflection that was no where close to being legal so that doesn’t count. But hey, A for effort.

But then the 2nd line gets a rush, Phil Kessel does a wonderful job streaking down the right wing, faking shot, throwing a hard pass over that Carl Hagelin is there to tap in. Tie game! 2-2

That buys Pittsburgh a point.

Overtime

Vancouver gets control with Brock Boeser skating in, plenty of space and he rifles it by Casey Desmith.

Some thoughts

  • No shots on goal for Derick Brassard on the wing. Wonder how long that will continue.
  • Only one power play in the game, went to the Pens. They didn’t score. Lots of ES time and lots of low numbers (Patric Hornqvist under 13 minutes played. Daniel Sprong 8 minutes and change, Dominik Simon less than 7, Bryan Rust 13:30).
  • Kris Letang continues his very strong start. Game-high 25:27 played. Shot attempts while he was on the ice at 5v5 was 25-14 Pens. Scoring chances were 13-5 Pens. Goals 1-0 Pens. Big time performance, about the only bad thing was he couldn’t play the entire game.
  • But Jack Johnson was! 42.8% Corsi (second worst defenseman on the team behind his partner Oleksiak. Weird how his partner’s suffer, huh?). 1-4 high danger scoring chances. 0-2 goals. This was the type of game Jack Johnson alarmists warned about that no one wanted to hear about. It’s early and still some time but this isn’t a game for him to remember by any means.
  • Casey DeSmith made a few good saves, but he was also flopping around like crazy and got lucky once that Vancouver shot it into him while he was out of commission. To be fair, it’s not DeSmith’s fault they lost and you can’t pin much on him, but his all-around performance wasn’t great. I don’t blame the Pens coaches for going back to him in this game after he was solid (or better) in the last two games, but at this point, yeah time to see what Matt Murray is ready for.
  • Overall now the Pens just look stuck in the mud. They’re definitely not in playoff mode, and not totally mailing it in - but they haven’t found the sweet spot of firing on enough cylinders to play meaningful regular season hockey. You don’t need to see them “peaking” right now or playing excellent, but it doesn’t seem too much to ask for for better performances without going all out. But I guess that is always that team’s challenge this time of year- to look interested, to beat a goalie who is playing decently enough. They didn’t really have it going enough tonight.

But they do get a point out of it. Probably deserved 1 out of 2 as well. The team is probably staying frustrated and everything isn’t working quite right, but then again no one or no line is really clicking and making things happen consistently. We see flashes, but then they are given away all too easily by lackadaisical play away from the puck - by forwards and defensemen alike.

No one is particularly 100% bought in right now. And the refs aren’t calling many power plays - so the great equalizer (and difference maker) known as the Pittsburgh power play is not able to be a factor. That’s tough at this point. So until then, 1 point in the pocket and time to move on.