Undermanned, tired, on the road with a backup goalie against a rested, strong team isn’t usually a favorable position to be in. But the Pittsburgh Penguins made the most of it and put forth a great effort, in large part due to that backup goalie as they faced the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
Tampa opened the scoring mid-way through the first period with Alex Killorn tipping a shot in.
But the Pens would stand tall, particularly in the first and second period where Tristan Jarry wouldn’t allow Pittsburgh to fall behind any further early. Jarry’s big saves were a true difference-maker in this game to give his team a fighting chance until the end.
Jarry held the Pens in it long enough for them to find their footing. Brandon Tanev demonstrated some great patience, circling the net, not shooting immediately into a crowd but rather deking to his backhand and finishing it nicely into the top shelf to tie the game in the second period.
The first line then struck for Pittsburgh in the closing minute of the second period to send the Pens into the locker-room with a 2-1 lead. Great play by Dominik Simon to hunt this puck down and center for Sidney Crosby who of course makes a perfect dish over for Jake Guentzel to convert.
The lead wouldn’t stay for long. Jack Johnson couldn’t prevent a Tampa zone entry in the third and drew himself out of position. Erik Gudbranson then got to the puck but blindly reversed it to where he thought Johnson would be. He wasn’t Luke Witkowski was there and centered the puck for Ryan McDonagh to shoot that Cedric Paquette would tip in from point-blank just for good measure tie the game at 2.
The Pens play a dangerous game taking two penalties in the latter part of the game, one by Zach Aston-Reese for the unconventional “throwing a stick” to a teammate and then Guentzel got rung up for hooking, both in the final five minutes of the game.
That would prove too much to overcome, with Victor Hedman blasting a shot from the top of the zone through all kinds of traffic with 56 seconds left for the game winner.
As time ticks down, Kris Letang’s desperation shot goes to the net nearly at the buzzer. It appears Andrei Vaselivskiy gets his glove on the puck near the goal-line with about 0.2 seconds left very close to the goal line, but there’s no conclusive view to see if the entire puck crosses the entire goal line with video evidence. Close play, but it wasn’t ruled a goal on the ice and while there was barely enough time left in the game, the problem was no perfect view of the puck getting all the way over.
Three final thoughts
- A familiar formula slightly spoils. Great goaltending, some secondary help, 87+59 coming through. Pretty much every Pens’ win this season has featured that, and tonight would follow the script to take a lead into the third period. Usually that’s been good enough, the Pens were 4-0 when carrying a lead into the game’s final frame, but they hit a rough patch tonight, took too many penalties late and ran out of gas.
- Feisty night. Erik Gudbranson dropped his gloves and punched Patrick Maroon in the head, but he didn’t want to fight. Jared McCann leveled a Lightning player pretty cleanly along the board, drawing their ire and resulting in Patric Hornqvist jousting with everyone on the team. Yanni Gourde dropped his gloves and wanted to fight Guentzel. Pens and TB games are always very nasty and this one was no different.
- Jarry deserved better. Jarry made 45 saves tonight. Of the goals he allowed — two were tipped, and another Letang had a chance to clear and didn’t and Tanev and Johnson did more to screen than block a shot. Tough one for the netminder. He deserved to win this, making several tremendous stops and was the main reason his team was in the game until the last second. But deserve got nothin’ to do with it.
The Pens go 0-for-Florida on this quick road trip, which stinks, but they didn’t really play poorly in either game. Just a little bit short-staffed and made a few too many mistakes at inopportune moments late. Sometimes that’s how it goes. The good news is some reinforcements could be back in time for the next game Saturday in Dallas.