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Penguins/Avalanche Recap: Horny Hat Trick on Hat Giveaway night powers Pens

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Patric Hornqvist scores 3 straight goals in a 2:47 stretch in the 3rd period (on hat giveaway night) to lead the Penguins to a win over Colorado

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

The new guy Marcus Pettersson draws into the lineup at the expense of Juuso Riikola (healthy scratch), otherwise the Penguins are about the same as last time out.

The Colorado Avalanche are a little stronger than last game, as they welcome defenseman Tyson Barrie back from injury and into the lineup.

1st period

Pittsburgh opens the scoring just 2:46 into the game, as good gracious first Brian Dumoulin makes a heck of a pass to Kris Letang. Letang just abuses his old pal Ian Cole with an inside-out move. Letang pushes to the net and passed for Jake Guentzel to gently redirect in off the back of his skate to make it 1-0.

Then in a 35 second stretch Pittsburgh puts an

(don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it)

avalanche of goals on Colorado. First Evgeni Malkin hovering around the net finds the puck and chips it past his countryman Semyon Varlamov to make it 2-0.

Then 35 seconds later, a heck of a read in the offensive zone by Olli Maatta who sees Derick Brassard all alone in front. Brassard does well to tap his stick and call for it and also give Maatta a target to shoot at with his stick on the ice. And it’s a perfect tip into the net to make it 3-0 on Brassard’s 3rd goal of the season.

A bit later, Dominik Simon takes a penalty which is NOT what you want to see when the opponent has a 32.2% power play through 27 games. And Colorado strikes almost at the end of it with JT Compher finding the puck.

..but wait, Carl Soderberg was in the crease and it looked like some contact with Casey DeSmith. The Pens challenge for goalie interference. After a lengthy review the officials agree with Mike Sullivan, no goal due to a push by Soderberg.

DeSmith was sharp, having to make 18 stops in the first period, but he got ‘em all, including this stretch job on Tyson Jost.

Shots are 18-10 Avs, but shots past the goalies (aka ones that count!) are 3-0 Pens.

2nd period

The Pens are down to 11 forwards on the bench as Dominik Simon did not return after the first intermission. Bryan Rust was mainly used on the Sidney Crosby line in Simon’s place.

Letang interferes with Mikko Rantanen on the rush, so Colorado gets their second (and the game’s second) power play of the game. And this time the Avs score and it counts, with Barrie hammers one from 55 feet that goes past DeSmith, off the post and in to make it 3-1 with 11:44 left in the game.

Then, quickly, the Avs make it a one-goal game, as similar to Malkin’s goal the puck comes in slowly and the forward chips at it before the defense and goalie can readjust. This time Soderberg gets it, and just like that a 3-0 lead has become 3-2.

Crosby barely touches an Av 200 feet away from the Pens’ net, he falls and now the Pens are getting a 3rd straight penalty against. That’s agitating and then 45 seconds into that power play, the refs even it up with an interference call for a hit on Maatta and it’s 4v4 action.

The Pens get their short power play, and almost as soon as they do, they give up a 2-on-1 against. Phil Kessel tries his best to get back on defense, but Matt Nieto cuts back on him, has plenty of room to shoot and DeSmith can’t stop the high shot. 3-3 game.

Patric Hornqvist gets a breakaway but Varlamov is there to make the stop and keep it a tie game.

Shots in the 2nd period are 12-11 Colorado, but they flip the script with a 3-0 edge in the period in goals to lead us into the last 20 tied at 3.

3rd period

Chances are flying at both ends but nothing hits the net. Crosby draws a penalty to give Pittsburgh their first full 2 minute power play of the game with just over 14 minutes left in the game.

And the big boys atone for their mistake in the 2nd period. Letang finds a shooting lane and fires the puck on net. Varlamov kicks out a rebound that Hornqvist finds and swings into the net. 4-3 Pens lead, the first of three goals for PH72 in a 2:47 stretch.

Goal #2 for Hornqvist came immediately following a giveaway by Ian Cole (ouch), who essentially passed the puck to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin calmly fed Hornqvist who skated down the right side and shot from distance. The puck bounced off the ice and skipped up and past a befuddled Varlamov for 5-3.

And that score quickly becomes 6-3 as Hornqvist completes the hat trick on hat night, with another lucky bounce but gotta shoot to get the bounces.

Jack Johnson and an Av rough each other and go to the box, and with about 4:40 left, Colorado pulls their goalie. No one scores, and poor Bryan Rust gets a look at the empty net, but per his ritual, does not score. He gets taken down and the Pens get a power play with 2:59 left in the game, and just wind down the clock playing 2 defensemen.

Game.

Some Thoughts

  • The Pens gave up some shots in the first period, but loved the start. Maybe one of the best periods of the year in terms of skating hard, being engaged and aggressive on defense and execution in finishing shots.
  • And to that end, 1st goal came from the 1st line, the 2nd goal was scored by the 2nd line and the 3rd goal of the period was from Pittsburgh’s 3rd line. (Fittingly, there was no 4th goal of the period).
  • If the first period was one of the season’s best, the second period was certainly another candidate for worst. Pittsburgh managed to give up 3 goals three different ways (even strength, short-handed, and while short-handed) and blow the lead.
  • The Pens had killed 19 straight penalties fating back some 8+ games before allowing the 2nd period goal.
  • So at least the 3rd period was the Hornqvist show to salvage the win.
  • Marcus Pettersson was about as advertised. Tall, lanky, moves with ease but isn’t a dynamic player. His best moments might have been blocking 2 shots in a quick exchange in the 2nd period while it was 4-on-4. It was a quiet night with those 2 shot blocks, just 13:54 played, 1 shot on goal (1 more shot attempt blocked) and a +1. Not bad for a guy flying cross country in the last day, joining a new team and jumping right in.
  • Hornqvist’s hat trick is the fastest in franchise history. Now Nils Ekman can continue his slide into anonymity.
  • Only the 2nd game back from a concussion too for Hornqvist. Nice to see him keep firing, go to the dirty zones and get rewarded to get goals #10, 11 and 12 on the season.
  • The 7th goal given up while on the PP this season though. That’s becoming a big problem. Not really sure what the solution is, but any turnover it’s basically Letang back and then almost always one of Malkin or Kessel scrambling (poorly) to get back, which never seems to work out. And no matter who the goalie is, they can never manage to make a save.
  • Simon never returned to the game, and his loss was noticeable. Not to say the Pens should have blown a 3 goal lead just due to one injury, but they were certainly all out of sorts in that 2nd period with the 11 man forward rotation going.
  • The Pens scored 6 goals. Crosby and Kessel both didn’t have even a point. Malkin had 2, but even then he just flicked at a puck for a goal and made a routine pass to Hornqvist to earn an assist, he wasn’t a driving force. Great to see some secondary production from Brassard and, of course, Hornqvist with his 3 goals.
  • Good night for DeSmith with 42 saves made.
  • Not a great return to Pittsburgh for Ian Cole- he was on the ice for 5 of the 6 goals the Pens scored, and looked like a culprit on many of them. From thinking earlier about how Mike Sullivan better be right about not liking Daniel Sprong all that much, let’s remember Sullivan de-emphasized Cole when possible and occasionally made him a healthy scratch too. Sully was no major fan of Cole, and that analysis looked smart, for one night at least.
  • Pens/Avs season series: in both games home team jumps out to a 3-0 lead, then the visitor ties it 3-3. Then the home team scores 3 more to make it 6-3. Pretty wild how similar both games played out, with each team taking a win.

A strong 3rd period and it’s a win. The Pens will take that at this point as they now start a 3 game road trip, beginning Thursday night back in the Coliseum, as the Islanders play a home game back at their old digs on Long Island.