No surprise for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are using the same lines and personnel as the last few games.
The Ottawa Senators are lining up as below. Backup Mike Condon (formely a Penguin for a brief stretch!) gets the start. Condon’s .904 save % is slightly better on the season than Craig Anderson who at .902% hasn’t been great this season.
Early on Phil Kessel shows off some speed and forces Mike Hoffman to hook him and the Pens go to a power play. After 2 terrible Ottawa clearing attempts, Justin Schultz blasts from the point and Jake Guentzel puts a nice deflection on the puck to drop the level past Mike Condon for a 1-0 Pens lead.
Guentzel now has goals in back-to-back home games and four points in his last three home games (2G-2A). pic.twitter.com/MC7gkzExc9— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 14, 2018
Game rumbles on without much going on. Murray with a couple nice stops but nothing too extraordinary asked of the goalie. Shots end up 11-4 Ottawa, which didn’t really reflect a more even puck possession battle, just Pittsburgh’s possession tended to be cycling and away from the net and not generating looks on goal.
Ottawa keeps up the pressure and scores after a partial line change for the Pens. Derick Brassard rips a slapshot from the circles that sneaks between arm and body of Murray to tie the score at 1.
The tie lasts 56 seconds before Guentzel scores his second of the game, collecting a Phil Kessel rebound and tossing it in the net. 2-1 Pens back on top quickly.
Murray makes a huge save to deny a game-tying goal, so if you’ve been watching hockey for longer than 2 days you know when one goalie makes a huge save like that, invariably his team tends to get a chance at the other end pretty soon after. Sure enough, it comes with Carl Hagelin zooming around the net, but wait he reverses the puck with a backhand pass to Evgeni Malkin. Condon is lost and has no idea. Malkin backhands it in. 3-1 Pens.
The Pens pour it on, just 1:21 after the Malkin goal, Conor Sheary picks off a pass and feeds Sidney Crosby. Crosby lifts a saucer pass to Zach Aston-Reese who figures this is a great time for his first career NHL goal as he puts a weakish wrister on net and past a helpless Condon. 4-1 Pittsburgh and a goalie change for Ottawa.
The Sens don’t go away, Murray robs Cody Ceci on a deflected shot, then another good save on Matt Duchene and then Brassard hits the post on top of all that. And they’ll make it 4-2 with youngster Colin White getting his 2nd career NHL goal, beating Murray 5-hole.
Shots are 14-7 Ottawa in the period (and a commanding 25-11 overall). Pittsburgh’s making theirs count though with the 4-2 lead. The Pens only bothered getting 2 shots on Anderson in the 8:38 to close the period that he played. Maybe some score effects up so much, but consistent pressure never really happened at any point. At 4-2 the game isn’t over.
3rd begins and the Pens are off to a bit of a better start. Kessel hangs behind the Sens defense and nearly scores, as too does Ryan Reaves off a nice setup but Anderson makes a save.
Game rolls on, Guentzel and Kessel creating some magic for each other with nifty passes but can’t quite finish on either.
Pens playing strong all over the place, like our pal Jesse notes:
This is life against the Penguins. A constant, relentless parade of forecheckers. No space to breathe. If you don't move the puck, expect to get swarmed. Take your time, you lose. Make too quick of a decision, you lose. pic.twitter.com/FziDvhR4wj— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) February 14, 2018
Then on an offensive zone draw, Pittsburgh strikes again. Crosby wins the puck back to the point, Letang shoots and Anderson stops it but doesn’t know where the puck is. It’s in his skates and he kicks it in. 5-2 Pens.
Bryan Rust takes the first Pittsburgh penalty of the game and the Sens strike on the power play with Duchene posted right up in front of him. 5-3 Pens with 5 minutes and change left.
That’s as close as they will get though, Aston-Reese gets his 2nd career goal on an empty netter and this one is in the books.
- Kessel hasn’t gone three consecutive games this season without a point and his assist on Guentzel’s second goal it won’t start now.
- Loved the back pass by Hagelin to reverse the play while basically faking a wraparound. That’s a tough play for goalies and one would think a play that could be open for more in the future. It’s situational to be able to get it (seen more NHL teams do it on the power play than even) but is something to hopefully incorporate a bit more into the Pens already formidable offense.
- Bad goaltending has been a problem for Ottawa all year and was again tonight. Condon wasn’t strong and clearly in a bad spot after giving up the Malkin goal. Very wise of Aston-Reese to quickly get a shot in goal in the aftermath.
- Great job by Schultz on that top power play group to hold clearing attempts inside offensive-zone. And to throw a puck on net where not only Guentzel was, but Crosby as well for a couple different sticks to wave at the incoming shot. Gotta like those odds.
- Loved the vibe from the Guentzel-Sheahan-Kessel 3rd line. If that can stick for the future, would think that’s fairly HBK-ish. Maybe even better in skill considering Guentzel scores more goals than Hagelin/Bonino and Kessel is playing some of his best hockey ever right now.
- Ottawa’s down and out at 15th/16 teams in the East in the standings, but they played hard in this game. At the 1st TV timeout of the 3rd period, Pittsburgh only had 15 shots on goal. The Senators had credit for 19 blocked shots. They were definitely willing to sacrifice and were trying, just doomed by bad goaltending and a skill deficit.
- 9 straight home wins! Which is pretty good since the next two are also home games.
- Really liked the way Kris Letang was skating, jumping into plays offensively, nearly scored in the 3rd period on a slick feed from Sheahan. Also used his legs to breakup a rush defensively. It was like an “old Letang” night at times which is a very good thing.
- The goal was fluky but he also had 9 shots attempts and you’ll take that every time. A takeaway, a blocked shot, 0 giveaways, that goal, an assist, on ice for 4 Goals For, and 1 goal against (on PK no less) in a team-high 22:50 played. Yep, that’s an old Letang night there.
Pens get LA next on Thursday. Ironically it appears Dion Phaneuf is in the process of getting traded from Ottawa to Los Angeles so he’ll be sticking in town and with his buddy Phil all week.