The Penguins welcome back Dominik Simon from injury (replacing the recently departed Josh Jooris sent back to the AHL today). Matt Murray gets his net back.
Soon.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 23, 2018
Welcome back to the lineup, Simon! pic.twitter.com/fnU11Jwacy
The Devils enter night 1 of a tough back-to-back weekend situation with a game tomorrow against Tampa by electing to play Keith Kinkaid.
Just 2:30 into the game the Pens get on the board thanks to the captain. Bryan Rust does well to win a wall battle and the puck pops out to Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak wastes no time firing in a shot from out deep that Sidney Crosby deflects and Kinkaid can’t corral. Crosby kicks the rebound to his stick and chips the puck into the open net. 1-0.
Oh, you know, just Crosby things.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 23, 2018
Sid's goal gives him 80 points for the fifth straight season and ninth time overall.
The #Pens now have three players with 80+ points for the first time since the 2000.01 season. pic.twitter.com/Z1WXeVtnlH
The Pens keep up the pressure playing some really fine hockey, Taylor Hall blocks a shot though and is off to the races on a breakaway but Matt Murray is up to the task on the save.
The Devils make a push and get some more shots but nothing of note. Drew Stafford takes a tripping penalty late for the first power play of the game in favor of the Pens.
Shots are 15-12 for Pittsburgh after 20 minutes.
And then, the bottom dropped out. Bryan Rust takes a penalty and Will Butcher scores his 3rd goal of the season on the ensuing power play wristing a shot from the point through traffic and past Murray. 1-1.
Just 2:05 later, Blake Coleman with a terrific individual effort to bull past Derick Brassard and flip a puck past Murray. 2-1 NJD
The bad luck continues just a minute later, the Pens appear to get a power play but an additional coincidental penalty for goalie interference is called on Carl Hagelin. Quickly on the 4v4 Taylor Hall floats a pass that bounces and Brian Dumoulin can’t swat away. Tough because one centering pass later Nico Hischier has a wide open net to tap it in. 3-1 just like that and holy cow what happened.
NICO HISCHIER MAKES IT 3-1 DEVILS IN THE 2ND! pic.twitter.com/rAQteYUdJj— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) March 24, 2018
The hits keep on comin’ with Oleksiak forced to the box for puck over the glass penalty but luckily the PK holds.
Shots in the period are 17-12 Devils. Not great, Bob!
Line go in the blender a bit, First line Hornqvist is back with Guentzel-Crosby and Rust drops back with Hagelin-Malkin.
The Pens get one back off a Crosby faceoff win Dumoulin blasts on net and it beats Kinkaid to make it 3-2 with some time left.
Ready... Set... LAUNCH THE DUMOULIN CANNON! pic.twitter.com/M6lL1z7Wdj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 24, 2018
The comeback draws Pittsburgh to a tie with none other than Phil Kessel skating to open ice and unleashing a worm burner that beats Kinkaid and makes it 3-3.
The Pens pour on the pressure but time runs out before they can score again.
Pittsburgh starts with Malkin-Kessel-Letang so you know one way or another this one ain’t lastin’ long. NJ wins the faceoff and the Pens are aggressive. Too aggressive. And they can’t win the puck back and someone forgot to cover Taylor Hall. That’s a bad mistake and it’s the ball game.
- The Pens started out great with 9 of the game’s first 10 shots. They were playing like a team that knew Washington, Philly and Columbus all won last night, because surely this time of year they do know it.
- Crosby with 4 of those early shots too, meaning he had more SOG by the first TV commercial break than he usually would in a full game. Weird that even for the best an early goal can be a shot in the arm of confidence and very affirming, but as any player at any level will tell you the game can open up and be that much easier once you pop in a goal early on.
- A funny thing happened in the 3rd period. Hornqvist started getting in as many faces as he could after whistles, initiating scrums. Brassard would follow up the next shift and do the same. Malkin and Rust ditto after him. It was like the Pens hit the playoff mode and amped up the intensity in a tangible way for that 3rd period.
- A lot of credit to Kinkaid, Pittsburgh shoulda/coulda busted this game open early and/or scored more late, but he wasn’t having it for the most part.
- Congrats Phil Kessel on a career high in points.
- Justin Schultz would briefly leave the game in the 3rd period after a spill with Brian Gibbons but would return. As we’ve said in the past few recaps, in many ways retaining health is the biggest win possible right now. Murray also took a Michael Grabner puck off the facemask in the 2nd period. He appeared no worse for wear so hopefully that moment will fade away as well.
- 0/2 PP and a 1 for 2 PK, not a positive night in the special teams spectrum again.
- Loved the play by Brassard to create the space for Kessel on the game tying goal in the 3rd period. He’s definitely pitching in solidly at this point which is great to see.
Tough to only get one point on a night where the Pens really dominated shots (43-34) and Corsi (69-40 at 5v5) and scoring chances (41-21 at 5v5). But NJ was a bit more desperate and opportunistic in the 2nd period and that carried them to OT. Pittsburgh can make a bit of their own luck with a crucially important game for seeding purposes when the Pens host Philly on Sunday afternoon.