Alright gang, buckle up. This one was a wild one, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks through caution, goaltending, defense all to the wind on Wednesday night. What resulted was one of the most entertaining and electric back-and-forth game of the seasons that anyone would like. Except a coach. Or a goalie.
The Pens totally dominated the first period, taking a 14-3 edge in total shots on goal. And they would get the game’s first two goals, including the ice breaker just 2:29 into the game when Jake Guentzel continued his excellent ways on a version of the “James Neal play” shooting directly off an Evgeni Malkin faceoff win through traffic to open it up.
Jake Guentzel has points in all seven of his career games vs. Vancouver (7G-3A). pic.twitter.com/YVzS5a4h37— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2019
Pittsburgh would make it 2-0 on the power play with Malkin making a sublime cross-ice pass through all sorts of sticks. Nice patience by Bryan Rust to wait a beat and open up Thatcher Demko and then fire the shot by his glove.
Despite tilting the ice, the Pens can’t take a commanding lead into the first intermission, Quinn Hughes makes a beauty of a pass (on basically a 3-on-1) through the middle to J.T. Miller who backhands one past Matt Murray on the rush. 2-1 game.
The Canucks tie the game after doing well to stretch the Pens out big time on a long lead pass and eventually find Elias Pettersson right in the middle of the ice with plenty of space. Not what you want to see. Pettersson absolutely rips a shot past Murray to make it 2-2.
The game turns big time with 1:40 left in the second. Kris Letang misses the net and the play goes the other way. Letang gets back in position but inexplicably lets Jake Virtanen skate right by him. Then, just as sloppily, Murray doesn’t get either his pad or his stick squarely on the ice and Virtanen’s able to slam the puck home and give Vancouver a 3-2 lead.
With Murray and the Pens reeling, disaster strikes 41 seconds later. Murray can’t control the rebound of a few shots, Chad Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson are doing, well, who knows what and Adam Gaudette finds the loose change and fires it in. 4-2 ‘Nucks on the scoreboard with shots 26-14 Pens after two periods.
Murray gets pulled at this point. The third goal was really bad, and shifted momentum a lot. The rest were mutual meltdowns all over the ice, but clearly with 4 goals allowed in 39 minutes on 14 shots, enough is enough and it’s time for a change, as the great Owen Hart taught us. So in comes Tristan Jarry.
The Pens show some life and Jake Guentzel scores his second of the night (and 14th of the season) on a spinning backhander just 1:01 into the third to bring Pittsburgh within one at 4-3.
Looking for more of this ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Z8BTWmRZGZ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2019
But just 1:30 later, Miller would get HIS second goal of the night to re-extend Vancouver’s lead back to two goals when he finds an errant shot bouncing off the boards, throws it through Jack Johnson and the fluttering puck eludes Jarry, because just no goalie can make any save on this crazy night.
The Canucks PP clicks again as J.T. Miller scores the prettiest goal of his career. pic.twitter.com/Q0I1reanYR— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) November 28, 2019
Just 37 seconds later the Canucks make it 6-3 when Gaudette dances by Letang and Jarry can’t handle the shot from in close.
The Pens have almost 17 minutes late, but down 3, it’s not looking good.
But they don’t quit. Dominik Kahun gets the comeback going, after Jared McCann throws a puck on net, Demko can’t control the rebound, Kahun smartly settles a backhander in to make it 6-4.
Dominik Kahun went to the net and wouldn't be denied! pic.twitter.com/NWEEz4erHJ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2019
In a hole this big though, one goal is nothing without a follow up and Malkin provides that on the power play just 1:08 later to keep the comeback trail fully rolling. Especially when it comes from a Geno slapshot. Nothing is better than a Geno slapshot. And this wild game is 6-5 and the Pens have a lot of life.
The Canucks are in a disadvantage because their other goalie, Jakob Markstrom, is under the weather and not going to play, even though he’s dressed and 3,000 miles from home there’s presumably no emergency available. So they’ve got to sink or swim with Demko, and it’s full on Titanic mode.
The ZAR-stache brings down the house by tying the game at 6 when Zach Aston-Reese finds a puck and fires it home. Big time goal. Still almost half the third period to play too.
After Letang quite frankly had a few poor plays and decisions, of course he bounces back and scores what ends up being the game winning goal with 3:06 left.
TOUCHDOWN (and the point after is good!), KRIS LETANG! pic.twitter.com/i8NeRJFXA4— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2019
Vancouver challenges this for an offside, since hey why not...And it is a close call but there’s not enough to overturn it so the goal stands.
In the game’s dying moments, Malkin gets tripped but he scores from his butt because he’s just that damn good. 8-6 for laughs and giggles.
Tonight: stuffing the net.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2019
Tomorrow: stuffing in your belly.
Wednesday and Thursday FTW. pic.twitter.com/NI2CRKJ7Tp
What a comeback, what a win.
Three final thoughts
Uneven. Murray should have had a few he let in early. Letang was messy early. Murray got the hook (as he should have), but even Jarry gave up 2 goals on the first 4 shots he saw. Defense was very option in this one and the goalies weren’t bailing anyone out, including Demko. For his part, Letang kept playing, because you keep playing one of the top defensemen in the league. Letang got some justification with the game winning goal.
Jake the Snake, and the first line too. A 2g+2a night for Guentzel, and those two goals were huge in terms of the timing. Rust went 1g+3a. Malkin was 2g+3a and arguably the best player on the ice. The Pens really need their top line to keep chugging, and no matter the score they did tonight.
Comeback kids. Per AT&T Sportsnet, the Pens have only had a third period comeback win of 3+ goals just seven times from 1987-2019. They’ve had 2 more in the last three weeks (against NYI 11/7 and tonight). It’s a cliche to just talk about resiliency but this Pens team fell down by 3 goals, against a good team, with just 16:54 left. They then scored 5 straight unanswered goals. The whole 60 minute effort wasn’t anything to write home about, but again we see this is a Pens squad with no quit and has the firepower to overcome a lot of obstacles.
So it will be a happy Thanksgiving for the Pens and their fans, but not a long break with games on Friday and Saturday.