As expected Bryan Rust is back! Josh Jooris is back to the AHL after two decent enough games and otherwise no changes for the Penguins.
Not much happening early. The Pens making 22-year old rookie Alexandar Georgiev look like a stud in his 6th career NHL game, to the surprise of zero long-time Penguin fans. But, credit to Georgiev, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel all had some decent looks at the net but couldn’t put the puck in.
Pittsburgh gets a power play, does almost nothing with it. The Rangers get a power play with 3 minutes left in the period and come to life a little but but DeSmith makes a few good saves include a great one with his shoulder on Pavel Buchnevich in the closing seconds of the period.
Shots are 14-7 Pittsburgh and an even more commanding 13-4 PIT edge at 5v5. Score remains what it was at the start of the first, 0-0.
The Pens open the scoring 1:53 into the 2nd period with their new look “3rd” line. Great shift by Rust and Derick Brassard, with Brassard winning a puck in the corner and finding Rust with a pass in a high-danger area in the slot. Rust fires a shot and a Ranger defensemen is screening Georgiev and it looks like he never picks up the puck and it flies into the net. 1-0 Pittsburgh.
He doesn't look rusty one bit pic.twitter.com/5iNJZU3e0Y— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 15, 2018
Just 55 seconds later the Pens strike again with their 4th line. Riley Sheahan and Carter Rowney do some great work down low in the offensive zone and Rowney makes a pass back to the point for Kris Letang. Letang has plenty of space and a shooting lane and with his head up all the way he drives the puck. Sheahan gets a bit of a tip on it and just like that it’s 2-0 Pens.
Letang with the shot, Sheahan with the tip-in. pic.twitter.com/MHHKxsGFYn— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 15, 2018
Rust feeds Kessel for his classic wrister-on-the-rush-down-the-right-side but the puck smacks the post and doesn’t go in.
The Pens get PP #2 on the night and although they get a little more zone time, still no goal. A nice stop made on Patric Hornqvist from right in front.
The Rangers make a bit of a push but it’s interrupted by them taking another penalty at the very tail end of the period.
Shots 13-9 Pens in the 2nd (and 27-16 PIT overall in the game). Score 2-0.
Pittsburgh starts on a power play but does almost nothing with it.
About midway through the period the refs ring up Hornqvist for a fairly weak penalty and early in the advantage Chris Kreider scores his 13th of the year when he finds the puck on a rebound from in front and swats it home. 2-1 Pens with still 11 minutes left in the game.
The Pens continue to try and sleep walk to the finish, Justin Schultz with a bad pinch, 2-on-1 and DeSmith has to make a beauty of a save on Jesper Fast. NY continues the pressure and Fast wouldn’t be denied his next shift when he deflected an incoming shot in past DeSmith who had no chance on that one. 2-2.
That finally wakes the Pens up who have been sleep-walking all period. Carl Hagelin pushes Pittsburgh back ahead with 4:10 left to go, sneaking a 5-hole wraparound past the NY goalie. Pretty weak but so it goes.
The lead doesn’t last. Chad Ruhwedel takes a tripping penalty and the Rangers wind up a great breakout rush that sees Kreider walk past Letang and throw a pass to the far post for Mika Zibanejad that Brian Dumoulin sees go by him and we’re tied again at 3 late.
The Pens second line plays well and the goalie knocks his net off the moorings with 10.7 seconds left so a penalty shot is awarded. Why? Because NHL! Malkin was on the ice so he takes it but he doesn’t score so it’s OT city.
Shots in the 3rd period were 14-8 Rangers! they woke up and forced OT.
Classic exciting 3v3 moments on both ends of the night. Dumoulin tried his “power move” to the net like the disallowed goal in Toronto over the weekend but this time he neither scored nor was pushed into the goalie so nothing came of it.
The Rangers win it with some puck control and poor defensive play. Hey, why not.
- Nice to see Brassard make a good play early in the 2nd period. Seems like he’s slowly coming to life as a Penguin. And no coincidence that Rust “fixed” that line tonight with a goal.
- The 4th line pitching in is always welcome. Rowney catches a lot of crap in these parts but he was good on the 2nd Pens goal of the night. Sheahan continues to play very well no matter where he is in the lineup. Definitely some encouraging signs from the depth of the lineup early in this game.
- Speaking of the 4th line, congrats to today’s All Heart Hockey Guy Award, Gregory Campbell Memorial Trophy for attempting to block a shot while already down on the ice hurting from blocking a shot. Now that’s some good #grit. (It’s OK to joke since Kuhnhackl would return to the game apparently no worse for the wear).
- After Georgiev made 14 saves on 14 shots in the 1st, you’d be excused to think “oh here we go again” after the PDOenguins have made many a backup look like a Vezina winner. He had a decent enough night but the story wasn’t a hot goalie taking Pittsburgh down, it was their own decision to take a foot off the gas in the 3rd.
- Natural Stat Trick had 5v5 high danger chances at 13-6 Pens through 2 periods. Hard to even recall many of the NYR 6. Pretty low energy and skill early that seemed to lull the Penguins to sleep. It worked.
- The Pens power play with an off night 0/3. Didn’t have much in the way of chances themselves on it. The Rangers PP went 2/3. Tough to win in such a situation.
- This iteration of the Sid and the Kids line met its demise late in the 2nd period. Conor Sheary got bumped down to the 4th line and Sheahan was promoted to the top line. At first it kind of made sense, they like Sheahan a LOT more defensively to help hold a lead rather than Sheary who is weak away from the puck. Also have to wonder if there was some play made (or not made) in the course of the game early that soured Sullivan on Sheary.
- Pens were 22-0-1 leading after 2 periods this season. Make that now 22-0-2. Not the end of the world in March (like it could be in May) but this will surely be a teachable moment for Sullivan and the coaches to instill on the team for the importance on playing to the finish. You can only spew the cliches so many times but a lesson like this is the example why it is important. Will they learn from the lesson and do better next time? Remains to be seen but in the past the Pens have learned from these types of failures.
The loss is a bitter pill to swallow because it shouldn’t have been a loss at all. Up 2-0 against a team with nothing to play for and Pittsburgh found a way to lose. They get 1 point out of the night so it’s not a total disaster but in such a tight race at the top of the division it’s painful to lose out on a point in the standings that they should have had.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Time to flip the page quickly and head to Montreal for a game tomorrow night. No time to feel sorry, time to move on and get after the next one. Let’s see if they can.