The Penguins get stronger by adding Evgeni Malkin back to the lineup after missing the last two games to being sick. And they catch a break too — Bryan Rust who was feeling ill yesterday is well enough to play.t
Bad news strikes early for the Penguins, as it always seems to. Justin Schultz and a Flames’ player inadvertently collide with each other’s legs and it’s Schultz who comes out of it the worse for wear. He leaves the ice immediately and while he tries to test it out with a quick twirl during a TV timeout, he shakes his head at the trainer and slowly walks back to the dressing room. Pens are down to 5 defenseman practically as soon as the game begins.
And from there Pittsburgh never seems to get on track early. They were outshot 17-6 in the first period, and outscored 1-0 when Johnny Gaudreau scored on the rush after Marcus Pettersson fell and then Gaudreau got a nice pass from Tobias Rieder who sent a puck through Chad Ruhwedel with 3:55 left in the first.
The Pens get the game’s first power play towards the end of the period.
Jared McCann hits goalie Cam Talbot with a shot and then the puck clicks off the post on the follow over of the power play, but that’s as close as Pittsburgh gets to scoring there.
The Pens get a second power play later and the second power play group gets a goal as it expires with Dominik Kahun and Pettersson controlling the puck around the perimeter, eventually getting it to John Marino who fires it through traffic past Talbot and into the net to tie the game at 1.
ROOKIE SENSATION, JOHN MARINO! pic.twitter.com/nhBZXexEQT— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 18, 2019
The very next shift following that the top line gets on the board after some nice offensive zone time, Bryan Rust slips out from behind the net and shoots a puck that leaks through Talbot and in to make it 2-1 Pens.
Shots as of now in the second are 11-3 Pittsburgh, as we’ve seen many times this year a slow first period start for the Pens yields into a strong effort and comeback in the second period.
Jack Johnson fumbles the puck at his blueline to give the Flames a 2-on-0 but Tristan Jarry comes up with a huge pad save to hold Calgary off the board there, because for some reason Dillon Dube decides to pass it off for Milan Lucic to shoot instead of taking it himself.
Still, pretty good bounce-back for the Pens who escape the period going up headed into the second intermission.
Game ambles on, Marino takes the Pens’ first penalty of the game mid-way through the third but Pittsburgh kills it off.
The Pens get another power play when Jake Guentzel is tripped and slides into the boards, they don’t score but that does at least kill two more minutes off a clock that is turning into an ally.
Malkin slams career goal No. 400 on the empty net to put the Pens up 3-1 with 1:58 remaining.
If there was any drama left, Kris Letang removed it with another empty netter just 20 seconds later to push the game to the final score of 4-1.
One final thought
Microcosm of the season. Bad first period. Crucial injury early on. Roaring second period comeback. Bryan Rust scoring. Tristan Jarry playing well. The first line showing up in general and the Pens gutting out a win while shorthanded. This was about the story of the season for the Pens all boiled down into one game.
Road trip continues on Friday night in Edmonton. We’ll see about Schultz, but it didn’t look very good. At least the team can play with the normal compliment of six defenders though.