The Penguins are rolling with the same personnel as Saturday’s win, which isn’t surprising. Tristan Jarry back between the pipes too.
The visiting Calgary Flames starters will look like this with youngster Jon Gillies in goal:
Pittsburgh opens strong, Chad Ruhwedel throws an innocent enough looking shot on net but it somehow eludes Gilles and gets into the net. 1-0.
Just 55 seconds later, Evgeni Malkin makes a superb play. Gillies tries to clear the puck from behind his net but Malkin knocks it out of mid-air! In truth, it’s a lucky bounce that the rolling puck jumps right to his stick, but as Dwight Schrute and Billy Zane in Titanic taught us, a real man makes his own luck. It’s a superb play by Geno to cause the turnover and he’s got a wide open net to slam the puck into. 2-0 Pens before the Flames have even registered a shot on goal.
Evgeni Malkin’s goal gives him 80 points for the fifth time in his career (and the first time since 2011.12).— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 6, 2018
Oh, and did we mention we still have 15 regular season games left this season? pic.twitter.com/GMvQpIe2Ac
But shots on goal they do get, and Mark Giordano makes it count. Calgary hems the Pens 4th line in their own end and Kris Letang breaks his stick to make matters worse. Eventually the Flames make the Pens pay. 2-1 all before the first television timeout.
Disaster strikes again for the Pens 4th line and top-d pair as Riley Sheahan kinda gets lost in open space and Letang gets totally walked by Mikael Backlund who is in alone (and with no back pressure from a gliding Tom Kuhnhackl or Brian Dumoulin) so he goes backhand and beats Jarry to tie the game at 2.
Malkin and some jabroni slash each other weakly and both get called for matching penalties, for some reason. Then Jarry gets run on the 4v4 and the Pens have a brief 4v3 on bad ice, don’t do much with it.
Shots 16-11 CGY after 1. They really recovered after a bad first few minutes.
Game settles down a lot from a hectic 1st, about midway through Ruhwedel takes a hooking penalty to give Calgary their first power play of the game but the Pittsburgh penalty kill holds.
Then Stevie Janowski slides right into Jarry for no reason and goes to the box. Seems like Jarry has been getting knocked over by Flames all night, they’re definitely not afraid to drive to the net.
A bit later, Jake Guentzel does well on the forecheck to steal the puck behind the net but his centering pass for Crosby is a bit off the mark.
But then Letang DOES find the mark, scoring off the rush. Nice pass by Malkin to find the Pens defender who had jumped up on the play and Gillies was way off his angle and the shot even hits him before going in. Not a great look for him but the Pens will take it. 3-2 lead.
Coach Sullivan on Kris Letang (this morning): "He is such an elite player... We think his game has gained a whole lot of traction in the past 5-6 weeks. He's a big part of this team. He's a terrific person and he cares so much about helping this team win." pic.twitter.com/xDgmXTwv5J— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 6, 2018
Douglas Hamilton snaps a shot that flies high and nails Jarry in the mask. Poor guy can’t catch a break this game, but fortunately he doesn’t appear to be hurt and he keeps the puck out of the net to boot.
The Pens can’t get out of the period with the lead. Troy Brouwer scores with just 2.4 seconds left after TJ Brodie jumps up in the play and throws a centering pass that Chad Ruhwedel, um, can’t defend very well. 3-3.
Shots are 11-8 Pittsburgh in the 2nd period (but 24-22 CGY overall).
Game carries on, Calgary gets a 3-on-1 with Johnny Gaudreau leading the charge (uh oh) but luckily for Pittsburgh he narrowly misses the net with a shot attempt.
Seconds later Calgary gets another 3-on-1! But luckily again they can’t get a shot on target accurately.
Derick Brassard and Phil Kessel generate a chance of their own a bit later, nice to see them getting a little more going all the time and against a 3rd pairing too. They should be getting some matchups.
Mark Jankowski gets a partial breakaway but a big save by Jarry.
Malkin takes a penalty...Carl Hagelin gets in a collision in open ice and appears to favor a leg. Derick Brassard wins a d-zone faceoff and Olli Maatta just clears it all the way down the ice...And somehow Gillies almost knocked it into his own net! After review it was determined he didn’t, but my goodness that was close to an all-time unfortunate goal. (Or, you know fortunate in this case).
Pens turn it on late, Crosby with a beauty of a play, the Brassard line goes hard but no goal.
Letang playing and skating like a madman. Then somehow Malkin/Kessel/Dumoulin beef up big time giving Gaudreau all day for a 2-on-0 but he shoots wide somehow. Then Jarry makes a huge save.
Lines cycle back through until Malkin/Kessel/Schultz do the opposite of mess up with Malkin and then Kessel making beautiful passes and Justin Schultz having a wide open net to shoot on. 4-3 good guys.
- Subtle cat-and-mouse coach-vs-coach stuff interests me. Lately these past few games Mike Sullivan has taken to starting the Evgeni Malkin line for periods. Which 95% of time prior he would start Sidney Crosby and his wingers. CGY coach Glen Gulutzan had to have noticed this, he started his 2nd pair of Brodie-Hamonic. With last choice, Sullivan could have put Crosby but went with the Malkin group. Gulutzan got his preferred matchup on the second shift with the Mark Giordano-Doug Hamilton pair taking the ice when Crosby did. (Helps that Calgary has 2 great pairs, but still).
- Pens defensive attention to detail wasn’t great. Up 2-0 they tried to go all circus and blow Calgary out early. Didn’t work. Indicative of a bigger issue or more excusable for Game 67 vs. a Western team? Probably depends on if you’re a glass type empty or full person. I’m inclined to cut them a break for the context of this game, but as winter slowly melts into spring you’d like to see a little more mental and effort type plays start showing up.
- Another point of cutting some slack: if this was a playoff game 4th liners like Kuhnhackl probably aren’t getting near the ES ice time as the 3rd line.
- Didn’t really like that 4th line. Kuhnhackl-Sheahan-Sheary are a mish-mash of styles that aren’t seeming to gel and don’t really have an identity.
- In the big onslaught in the 1st period with shots against the Malkin and Sheahan lines were thrashed. The Crosby and Brassard lines weren’t giving up as many shots. Defensively Oleksiak-Schultz emerged unscathed but the other two pairs, not so much.
- Top power play had Justin Schultz on it, didn’t do much. Not necessarily a statement so much as an observation.
- Letang looked so pissed after he scored his goal late in the 2nd. You could tell that Backlund burning him just ruined his whole night. But, hey, lose some, win some and at least he got it back.
- Speaking of, Chad Ruhwedel. Good job scoring a goal. Bad job with a penalty and he allowed the CGY 3rd goal to go right through his triangle in the crease. Plays like that remind you why he’s been a journeyman and not an NHL regular.
- 3 goals allowed, but none really his fault but more importantly 35 saves and a real battle today for Jarry. Loved his compete and the Flames were desperate and all over him. He found a way to do what it took in a bumpy game. Great to see him hold up and earn a win.
- 3 more points for Malkin who is closing in on the goal AND point scoring races this season. Has to be an MVP candidate too at this point. Big #71 is doing it all.
Now with 2 straight wins, the Pens can feel good as they venture east to the non-Stanley Cup winning side of the state for rivalry Wednesday and maybe even a playoff preview.