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Penguins close 2018 with 3-2 win over Minnesota Wild

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A sixth straight win for the Pens!

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

Luckily for the Penguins, Olli Maatta is able to play after getting a minor injury blocking a shot last game.

First period

The Wild score first on the power play. With Riley Sheahan in the box (and Bryan Rust out injured), the Pens have to use some new forward combos and it looked like Derek Grant and Sidney Crosby get a bit mixed up on the rush, leaving Mikko Koivu with plenty of space in the slot after a few nice passes by Minnesota. Koivu snipes one that Casey DeSmith gets a piece of, but can’t stop the whole thing.

The Pens don’t stay down for long, they tie the game on their first power play on the game. Crosby with an easy tap-in goal after Phil Kessel sends a cross-ice pass right through the feet of Ryan Suter. 1-1.

It appears the period will end 1-1, but Pittsburgh strikes late. First, Zach Aston-Reese does a great job on the forecheck to pressure and intercept Jared Spurgeon’s pass attempt up the ice. ZAR holds the puck while Crosby and Kessel get into the picture. Crosby shoots wide and Kessel looks like he’s trying to pass back over to Sid, but the bouncing puck hits off of Suter’s stick and floats into the net. 2-1 Pens.

Second period

Luke Kunin scores to make it 2-2 — but wait — his stick was over the cross-bar when he touched the puck. No goal.

Luckily then it’s Pittsburgh who gets the next goal, with Sheahan snapping a puck from the right wing that touches off the defender’s stick and wires itself under the bar. 3-1.

From here on out in the period, it’s the DeSmith show. Jack Johnson gets walked by Jason Zucker for a breakaway but DeSmith stops ‘em. The Pens allow Jonas Brodin in all alone, no problem. Johnson falls flat on his face at the offensive blue line leading Jordan Greenway to get a great chance on the rush, DeSmith bails him out yet again.

Shots are 13-7 Minny in the period but DeSmith makes all 13 saves.

Third period

Time slips away but Minnesota finally makes it an interesting game with 4:05 left, Zach Parise steps to the middle of the ice away from Crosby and uses his space to wrist a puck in. 3-2 and the Pens aren’t quite of the woods.

But that’s as close at they’ll get. Patric Hornqvist blocks a shot after MIN pulls Devan Dubnyk and then Crosby does too and that about does it. Pens skate away with their sixth straight win.

Some Thoughts

  • Nice to see Matt Cullen notch an assist on the Sheahan goal to get a point in his return to Minnesota.
  • Haven’t seen the charts but it sure looked like the team was making an effort to get the Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang pair out with the 3rd line. Seemed to work too with several extended shifts in the offensive zone.
  • Unfortunately a side effect of this is Jack Johnson plays more with the Crosby line. That’s not going to work very well with as much as the top line looks to play the puck back to the point and how allergic that d-pair is with making good decisions and plays with the puck on a consistent basis.
  • Kessel made one of the better defensemen of this playing generation in Suter have a night to forget tonight. Phil’s up to nine points in the last three games, he’s in quite the zone right now.
  • Dominik Simon and Patric Hornqvist on the Evgeni Malkin line just looks...Ehh. Not meshing too well. Liked Geno’s game though, thought he played engaged, was looking to shoot the puck with 4 SOG and a team high 8 total shot attempts. He wasn’t quiet or taking penalties, he did pretty well just didn’t happen to score. If he picked up an assist or two with a trailing pass on the power play his stat line would look better but it wouldn’t really mean too much more or less about how he’s playing.
  • Had to be tough for DeSmith to have an 11 day layoff with the Christmas break, plus Matt Murray playing well enough to keep getting starts. But one of the best qualities of a NHL goalie to have is being able to stay sharp even without a ton of consistent game time. Minnesota with like eight goals in their last six games is no offensive juggernaut, but they played well and generated many quality looks tonight. CDS was up to the task.
  • Didn’t really like Crosby’s play on either of the two goals against, but he did score two points and block a key last minute shot so we’ll call it more than a wash.

Six games in a row won to close out 2018, not bad. Now we’ll wait and see if they can keep it rolling into 2019.