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Penguins/Stars Recap: Pittsburgh thumps Dallas with big return from Sidney Crosby

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Sid is back and not a moment too soon

NHL: Dallas Stars at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

Welcome back Sidney Crosby! The Penguins were win-less in the three games that the captain missed. Daniel Sprong back to healthy scratch land. On defense the semi-regular shuffle of players continues with Juuso Riikola drawing back in for his ninth game of the season, and Chad Ruhwedel taking a seat.

1st period

Pittsburgh comes out flying and the Stars have no chance. Sidney Crosby is all over the offensive zone and eventually gets the puck over to Jake Guentzel on a beautiful pass. Guentzel quickly one times it and Anton Khudobin has a face full of Patric Hornqvist to deal with as the puck slides in 5-hole to make the scoring 1-0 Pens.

Pittsburgh gets their first power play and first power play goal soon after. Evgeni Malkin does his Sergei Gonchar impression, moving backwards with the puck towards space and the middle to open up his angle. With who else but Hornqvist again providing a jump-screen, Malkin wrists the puck inside the far post to make the score 2-0.

And then Sidney Crosby - he’s back folks! Crosby works over a very good defenseman in Esa Lindell to make it 3-0. I mean, his edgework, the acceleration, the backhand shot, the ability to adjust his body instantly to the rebound and use his skate to kick the puck back to his stick to swat the puck in the net all in one effortless looking motion? Jeez, it’s just not fair. For anyone else, this is the goal of a career. For Crosby, it’s Wednesday night.

Dominant period for Pittsburgh. 3-0 score. 9-3 in shots on goal. Dallas only really had one good chance develop out of no where with a Tyler Seguin shot hit the cross-bar. Otherwise they were just watching the Pens have their way.

2nd period

The Pens get another power play after Crosby goes down to a rough looking trip but don’t score. When it ends, Brian Dumoulin dives to stop a puck from getting to Seguin, he fails. Clean breakaway for Seguin but his deke to the backhand is matched by a save from Casey DeSmith on by far his best one of the night.

And - just as hockey proverbs mandate - a huge save at one end of the ice, a goal at the other end happens almost immediately. Crosby intercepts a Dallas clearing effort, finds Olli Maatta with a smart pass. Maatta from the slot fires a shot but it doesn’t score. The rebound bounces right to who else but Hornqvist who has plenty of time to snap the puck into the open cage from a sharp angle. 4-0 Pens.

Then Brett Richie absolutely buries Riikola into the boards, looked more than a bit late and Riikola’s head took some impact off the glass and he had to depart the game. Only a two minute minor penalty assessed, cancelled out shortly after by Kris Letang tripped a Stars player.

After the penalties cycle through, DeSmith makes a couple of really nice saves and most of the Pens go to change as Tanner Pearson skates down the left side. Pearson hammers a slapper high short-side over Khudobin to make it 5-0 and end Khudobin’s night.

As mentioned in the game preview, the Dallas backup tonight is an undrafted 23-year old with 0 NHL minutes named Tanner Bow.

Uneventful enough finish to the 2nd.

3rd period

The Stars end the shutout bid with 12:05 left, Roope Hintz (never not a funny name) scores his 2nd career NHL goal batting a backhand shot past DeSmith. Just the 14th Dallas shot on goal of the night through the first 48 minutes of the game.

Not much more goes on, Jamie Oleksiak gets a penalty against his old team, Pens’ PK does the job and that’s all she wrote.

Some Thoughts

  • For all the talk of which goalie to use, more evidence for the school of thought that the team in front matters more. Pittsburgh was up 3-0 on the scoreboard and 7-1 in shots on goal before the first commercial break. If the Pens play like that, it doesn’t matter who the goalie is.
  • Of course, as sort of hinted to in the preview, Dallas was in for a tough one tonight. Last game of a road-trip. 4th game in 6 days. Starting goalie hurt. 4 or 5 of probably their best 6 defensemen (including #1 guy John Klingberg, as well as Julius Honka, Stephen Johns, Connor Carrick and Marc Methot) all unavailable due to injury. Tough one for them.
  • That said, by hook or crook or anywhere in between you will take this 100 out of 100 times from the Pittsburgh perspective. At this point of the season, they just need wins no matter how it happens, and weakened opponent or not, it still was a convincingly good effort that you want to see more out of if you’re a Pens fan.
  • Per Steve Mears and the broadcast team, Pittsburgh improves to 23-15-8 in the home game before Thanksgiving. Would be a good story to figure out how/why Pittsburgh has always hosted a game the night before Turkey day.
  • Not sure if we’re going to look back on the trade of Pearson for Carl Hagelin in a few months and say “well that saved the season” or anything that drastic, but it’s sure looking like a great boost to the team just a few games in. Nice to see a scoring threat adding to the top-6 forward group.
  • 3 point night for Crosby on his return. Please never leave us again.

The Pens only had 1 win in their last 10 games before this. So a win is a win, especially when it comes in convincing fashion.

But, it’s just one game. Consistency in effort and execution has been an issue since Game 1. So what happens for an encore? We’ll find out Friday night in Boston.