The Penguins have the same crew as last night, except in net where it’s Case DeSmith’s turn to man the crease.
And the visiting Canadiens welcome back Carey Price to the net for the first time since Feb 20th, as he was out with a concussion.
La formation de départ / Tonight's starting lineup @ PIT:— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 21, 2018
Alex Galchenyuk sera en uniforme face aux Penguins. / Alex Galchenyuk is also in uniform for the Habs.#GoHabsGo
Just 18 seconds in, Jake Guentzel turns the puck over at his blueline (big no no) and Paul Byron is in all alone on a breakaway but Casey DeSmith makes a big first save on the first shot of the game to keep the game tied.
Then two shifts later the roles are reversed, Conor Sheary puts a great pass for Derick Brassard to have a breakaway and he gets hooked by a Canadien. The refs award a penalty shot but Price makes a great first save of his own on Brassard’s forehand move.
A bit later, Montreal ices the puck and it looked like Jonathan Drouin wasn’t ready for the faceoff which quickly went to Carl Hagelin. Hagelin tosses on net, Price lets a rebound and a lunging Evgeni Malkin pokes it into the net. There’s some contact in the crease so naturally there’s a coach challenge for goalie interference. Is it? Who knows. Looks like Malkin is playing the puck but he did slide into Price, didn’t really stop Price from making a save though and the refs agree on this one and it’s #41 on the year for Big Gene.
Malkin's goal gives him 90 points for the fourth time in his career.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 21, 2018
He is one of four players in the NHL with 90+ points this season. pic.twitter.com/NAyOlI0m97
The Pens get one of those ever-so-rare things where the refs decide the OTHER team did something wrong and they get a power play. And they make it count with Patric Hornqvist scoring a dandy on the rush. 2-0
Patric Hornqvist cannot be stopped.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 21, 2018
This power-play goal gives him 40 points for the eighth time in his career. pic.twitter.com/68PZULfT0w
Late in the period the Pens let their foot up again, seemingly. Kris Letang is the victim of a bad bounce with a puck going through his feet and Paul Byron skating past him. Letang has been putting himself in positions for bad things to happen too often lately. Anyways puck bounces around and Jonathan Drouin utilizes some of that work ethic to chop the puck past Casey DeSmith. 2-1
Montreal actually almost scores in the dying seconds but DeSmith is strong. 2-1 at the end of one period with shots 16-9 in favor of Pittsburgh.
Brendan Gallagher earns a penalty shot but DeSmith stands strong.
DeSmith denies Gallagher on the penalty shot. pic.twitter.com/X4BLWU1uKK— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 22, 2018
Jamie Oleksiak gets in a very rare fight. Jake Guentzel and a Canadien trade penalties a minute apart but just as the Pittsburgh power play begins Guetnzel heads for the box and doesn’t pick up Nikita Scherbak who has all day on a breakaway. A nice backhand deke later and he’s got an open net and puts the puck in to tie the game at 2.
A shot from afar hits DeSmith’s shoulder and the puck skies into the air. The Pens basically quit on the play, which is too bad because it lands right in the crease and Jacob de la rose is there to smash it in for Montreal’s first lead of the game at 3-2.
I don't even know how this happened, but Jacob de la Rose gives the Habs a lead for all of 38 seconds. pic.twitter.com/luMgy7KYIB— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 22, 2018
Luckily Pittsburgh is woken from its slump by Sidney Crosby who double bats a goal out of mid-air and past Price because he’s Sidney Crosby. 3-3 just like that.
Even the Montreal fans were impressed.
Shots end up 12 a piece in the period, but not a very good one for Pittsburgh at all. Luckily that Crosby goal salvages a tie heading into the last 20 minutes, they’ve played bad enough to probably be losing at this point.
The Pens earn a power play and after the first group fizzles, the second unit scores a goal with some nice work by Guentzel and a great finish by Derick Brassard in the slot to give the Pens a 4-3 lead.
Brassard has 20 goals for the second time in his career... and his point streak is now at 4 games (1G-3A). pic.twitter.com/O6qWvctiMQ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 22, 2018
Unlike last night, the ticking clock is the friend of the Pens and with less than 2 minutes left Guentzel wins a puck from Jeff Petry and races around him. It’s a wide angle but he shoots far-side on Price and it goes over the shoulder and under the bar. 5-3 to basically seal the deal.
Shots for the game end up 39-30 Pittsburgh.
- There have only been 47 penalty shots all season long in the whole league...2 in this game alone. Hockey’s weird like that.
- Aside from the obvious with the late goal, really liked the game Guentzel had. Ended up with 2 assists too, the second one in the 3rd period on Brassard’s goal showed a lot of determination and some nice vision.
- Without even looking it up but it seems like the past 87 games in a row both Maatta and Malkin have taken minor penalties.
- Speaking of 87, just wow. That goal was a thing of beauty and he finds such frequent way to score unreal goals it’s tough to even describe.
- Final Crosby note, by way of his assist on the Guentzel goal, he cracks 700 helpers in his illustrious career.
- You look up and Brassard now has a four game point streak. And scored his 20th goal of the season tonight too, a very fine number in today’s NHL. One gets the feeling he is settling in and almost quietly going about contributing at this point. But tangibly contributing he is.
- Scary moment in the second period with a linesman getting his hand cut on accident while standing near the Montreal bench. He would return with a heavily taped up paw being #hockeytough and all. But it’s almost a wonder that type of thing doesn’t happen more with the way players skates are flying over the bench as they make changes and how close officials get to the benches.
- 2 power play goals (though one SHG allowed)! 0 PK goals against! There’s the special teams edge we know and love.
- Most of the Pens best players wear high numbers. They were all over the scoreboard tonight - #59 3 points, #71, #81, #87 all with 2 points, #62 and #72 1 point a piece. Pittsburgh isn’t going to lose many games with so many of their big guns all firing like that.
- And while on the topic of changes, there was no less than 3-4 really good chances the Pens conceded due to bad, sloppy or weird changes in the 2nd period with the benches far from the defending goal. Seems like that also happens a lot lately with Pittsburgh being pretty lax there. Another item to button up before the playoffs for sure.
It wasn’t totally pretty but a win is a win and now the Pens have these two points and can feel good about going into a crucial weekend with home games against New Jersey (Friday) and Philly (Sunday afternoon).