Big Jamie Oleksiak rotates back into the lineup for the first time in seven games to face one of the bigger and stronger teams in the league in the Winnipeg Jets. Juuso Riikola to the press box.
Hockey is a weird game. Winnipeg has a good penalty kill. The Pens star players failed to score in the first minute plus of a power play. One would think the odds would be very small for Olli Maatta (no goals on the season entering tonight) scoring from distance with a low slapshot. But one accidental tip off the stick of Blake Wheeler and Maatta has his first goal of the season.
This shot made it 1-0, and that's the Olli thing that Maattas pic.twitter.com/H7N6tDjXFc— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2019
33 seconds later and a crazy bounce and it’s 2-0. Zach Aston-Reese dodges, dups, ducks (but not dives, dirty word in hockey) around the attempted check of Dmitry Kulikov and buys some space. He sees Matt Cullen going to the net and centers it. The puck again takes a hop off a Jets defender, hits Cullen in the shoulder/back somewhere area and flutters into the net past Connor Hellebuyck who must be wondering what he did to deserve such a hellish 33 second stretch to go from 0-0 to 2-0.
Matt Cullen always has our 'back'! pic.twitter.com/GukyPdV1Ac— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2019
Shots end up 10-7 Pittsburgh in the first period.
The Jets get a bit of a push with pressure and zone time but Matt Murray holds the fort.
Then, Hellebuyck’s bad luck continues. The Pens push down on like a 4-on-1 rush, outrageous. Evgeni Malkin makes a pass over to Dominik Simon, who is on the right side on his backhand but basically has a whole open look at the net. Simon shoots — but it hits the post. Hellebuyck lunges with his catching glove and nabs the puck. On the ice it’s ruled no goal.
But wait, as Hellebuyck was reaching back for the puck, the momentum and angle of how it hit the post carries the puck all the way over the goal line, as a view from the cross-bar down confirms without a doubt the puck went all the way over. 3-0.
It was a close one, but Simon now has goals in back-to-back games! pic.twitter.com/QtBgklJrN0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2019
Just unreal stuff from the crossbar cam. Hellebuyck makes a fantastic save that means jack squat. pic.twitter.com/q0IweEZfas— PensBurgh (@Pensburgh) January 5, 2019
Finally, Winnipeg’s luck changes a bit to stop the bleeding. Sidney Crosby then hits a post but doesn’t score. A Jet covers the puck with his hand, can’t do that so it’s a penalty. Phil Kessel hits the post on the ensuing power play. It stays out. Small consolation for them, surely, but hey the rain has to stop at some point, right?
But all the luck doesn’t go their way, as a post rings behind Murray but the puck stays out late in the period to send the game into the second intermission at 3-0.
Shots on goal end up 15-11 Pittsburgh in the period, and 25-18 overall.
Game ambles along, Winnipeg kills off another Pens’ power play.
Love to see coach Paul Maurice pull the goalie with 5:49 left. Why not? Doesn’t matter if you lose 100-0 or 3-0 and the theory of giving the team a lot of time with an extra attacker to score makes sense.
Doesn’t really work though. Crosby passes to Letang for the open net goal with 3 minutes and change left to salt the game away at 4-0.
Letang’s goal extends his point streak to six games (3G-6A), making it the longest active point streak in the NHL among defensemen.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2019
Send him to the All-Star Game: https://t.co/LiM5Rk63h9 pic.twitter.com/2tI5JHnywh
And that will do it, the Pens’ winning streak is up to 8 after an impressive outing to make a 1st place Jets team look very average tonight, shutting them out 4-0.
- Make that points in three straight (and six total points in the last 11 games) for Cullen! Pittsburgh is always going to be such a dangerous team when their fourth line is generating production so regularly as they have of late.
- Aston-Reese and Cullen are playing well and getting results. May or may not be something to stick with indefinitely, but for now one of the youngest forwards on the team is partnering well with the oldest player in the league.
- Good to see Simon find the back of the net too, albeit barely. They need a finisher for that role on Malkin’s wing and goals in two straight for Simon now is a nice sign to see.
- A big turning point of the game was Sidney Crosby (of all people) knocking Nikolaj Ehlers out of the game with a clean body check. Ehlers was shooting and Crosby ran into his arm/wrist area, sending the winger off in immediate pain. He tried to play another shift but left for the night. Ehlers is pretty much like Winnipeg’s Guentzel, so losing him was obviously a big blow to talent and may have contributed to confusion and bad changes that led to a too-many-men call against the Jets.
- Don’t think Crosby’s ever injured a player in his career with a check like that. Can’t think of one off the top of mind, and it wasn’t really vicious, just an every day play where the timing must have been unfortunate. Hopefully not too bad of a knock.
- Winnipeg is such a heavy team and they play that way too. 46 hits on the night, all of them earned too. Probably a couple extra ice bags in the Pittsburgh room tonight.
- The Pens had a great team effort 25 shots blocked. The first line of Jake Guentzel (3), Crosby (1) and Bryan Rust (3) combined for seven shots blocked all spread around. Don’t typically see that from an offensive-minded first line.
- Solid game from Jack Johnson too — see we will point out his good games! 1 shot on goal, 2 blocked shots, 2 official hits credited (though it seemed like easily more), an assist, a +2, some good PK work and obviously not on the ice for goals against in 20:03 played.
- Murray did have to make 33 saves, but he made them look pretty easy and his team played pretty well too. Either way, you’ll take it all day long.
- 100% of Olli Maatta’s goals this season are game winner’s.
- Crosby’s multi-point streak of games ends at five. He did get an assist on the Letang ENG though to at least keep a point streak going in some fashion.
The winning streak is up to 8! Depending on the results of out of market games with Washington and Columbus, the Pens could be up to first place in the division after tonight. Probably temporarily so, at least for the time being, but that’s quite the turnaround from a team that not too long ago was in dead last in the division.