The Penguins deliver the answer to the question “why was Joseph Blandisi an emergency recall today” with the worst possible reason for this game: because Evgeni Malkin is sick and unable to play. In desperation the Pens move Jake Guentzel to center and kick Alex Galchenyuk up to the first line.
The rest of the lineup...well in sticking with the holiday season it’s as if the Grinch has made his way down the proverbial chimney and picked the Pens’ clean and left as bare bones a forward group as you’ll see.
Lined up and ready to go. pic.twitter.com/7ID7In0guL— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 12, 2019
You don’t always have to see goals to make for an exciting games, but this was not one of those games that still delivered a high entertainment value in the absence of goals. It was pretty boring early. Pittsburgh held a 12-6 shot edge overall in the first, thanks to a 2-0 power play advantage in the opening period. Needless to say, they didn’t even come close to scoring a goal on either.
To make matters worse on the injury front, Galchenyuk took a tumble and appeared to bump his knee/lower leg on the boards. Just terrible luck to be forced out of the game when finally in a scoring role. Galchenyuk would return later in the second period, but he never returned to his spot on the Guentzel - Bryan Rust line for whatever reason.
As dull as as the opening frame was, the second was even doubly boring. Almost nothing happened. Shots were 6-5 CBJ, who got their only power play when Marcus Pettersson went to the box.
For Columbus at least, you’re on the road, you’ve given yourself a chance sticking with a team that routinely beats you (and usually beats you rather badly). That’s a kind of positive, I guess.
For Pittsburgh, well at least they have a reason to look so unskilled and unable to create.
For the Penguins tonight:— PensBurgh (@Pensburgh) December 13, 2019
Total salary cap hits of the 5 injured players: $31.7 million
Combined salary cap hits for the 19 healthy players who have been on the ice tonight: $43.825m
(It was almost even when Galchenyuk briefly left the game injured)
Columbus must have had an intermission talking about what we mentioned above, “come on boys, 20 minutes, win a period, win a game” they play some inspired hockey to start instead of just ping-ponging the puck back and forth through the neutral zones and get a couple of chances in alone on Tristan Jarry. Jarry only faced nine 5v5 shots and just one 5v5 high danger scoring chance in the first 40, so nice to see his focus was good to be big when (finally) called upon in this game.
Teddy Blueger gets about his fourth or fifth nice chance on a breakaway mid-way through the period. Can he be a hero? Not quite, Joonas Korpisalo sticks with the forehand deke by Blueger and the netminder stretches his leg to take away the far post.
No one scores and we move onto intermission.
Guentzel-Rust-Letang start, which isn’t terrible for speed and skill in a 3v3 OT, though without a normal center they lose the faceoff and the Blue Jackets control play for a bit. Pittsburgh gets it back and the Pens draw a penalty!
Pens get an OT 4v3 power play with 3:35 left. Smart use of the timeout by Sullivan, can’t take it with you with the Jarry makes perhaps the most of his contributions by playing the puck up quickly to keep Seth Jones trapped and unable to make the long change. Kris Letang hacks the puck down for Bryan Rust, who makes a savvy move to lift the stick of the exhausted Jones and Rust spins and beats Korpisalo for the game’s only goal.
SHAVE MY FACE WITH A RUSTY RAZOR! pic.twitter.com/UWIoBPYVsb— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 13, 2019
Mercifully this one is over. The Pens win. Does it feel like a win? Doesn’t matter. Also, hello Jarry third shutout in the last four games (probably won’t come much easier than this 17 save effort). Hey, it’s over and Pittsburgh finds a most unlikely way to take two points, can’t complain at all.
One final thought
(Yep just one for this game)
The slog was real. With the Penguins, you’re spoiled. There’s (almost) always been at least a Lemieux-Coffey-Jagr-Francis-Kovalev-Crosby-Malkin wonderful array of talent over the last 35 years (to say nothing of the supporting casts!) Lots of fun. Not lots of 0-0 games through 60 minutes. With so much talent unavailable, this game felt like going to the dentist. Just something to get through. The good news is everyone sick recently has only been down about 24 hours, so hopefully Malkin will be back. And we’re one day and game closer to Sidney Crosby and Brian Dumoulin returning to health. So, yeah. Gotta take what you can get and a win is a win.