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Penguins/Predators Recap: Pittsburgh fights to a shootout win in Nashville

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After blowing yet another late game lead, the Pens at least salvage a win in the shootout against the Preds.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

Adam Johnson makes it to the big time for his first career game in the show! Otherwise, lines are the same for Pittsburgh

First period

Not a lot going on early, but considering the Penguins are a road team playing their fourth game in six nights, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

About the only eye-catching thing is a few good shifts from Dominik Simon and the third line. The Crosby line, as just about always, also playing noticeably well.

Teddy Blueger gets called for a really weak penalty late, but the Predators weak power play does nothing with it.

Shots are 12-8 Pens after one.

Second period

After a few good chances early (including two shots off crossbars), Bryan Rust gets on the board. Nice play by him before this sequence to drive the net, Crosby hurries Mattias Ekholm who just uses the boards to send the puck. Unfortunately for him, it’s Kris Letang on the receiving end. Letang fires to the net, and Rust actually does well to stop the shot, have it stick on his blade, take a stride to find the open space on Pekka Rinne and toss the puck in the net. 1-0 Pens on Rust’s 18th of the season.

Another fairly nothing call goes against Nick Bjugstad and Nashville gets their second power play of the game. Matt Murray and company are up to the task.

The Pens get a first crack with the man advantage later, but don’t do much with it. Nashville gets a third PP but again can’t capitalize.

Shots overall are 20-15 PIT, a great effort through 40 minutes.

Third period

An absolutely epic scramble in front of the net with the Pens’ five skaters all collapsing on the net, dropping to the ice, Murray spinning around like a top to keep the puck out, sticks everywhere. Letang probably blocks a Nick Bonino shot from point blank with the whol net open. Nashville furiously trying to score, but they fail.

The Pens get a second power play in the game mid-way through the third. They give up a chance against with Viktor Arvidsson stealing an attempted zone entry and getting in on Murray, but a save was made. Disaster averted on that man advantage.

Then with 3:01 left, Murray’s long shutout streak vs NSH comes to and en. Ryan Ellis gets a shot from a wide angle through Jack Johnson as Johnson steps out to challenge and Murray doesn’t have the post sealed up, and whether screened or surprised at the trajectory of the shot, somehow the puck finds a way past him. And it’s a 1-1 game.

Both teams at this point seem content to take the point and figure it out in OT so away we go to 3v3.

Overtime

A long stretch with no whistles, which is always fun. The Pens dominate possession for the first two minutes with a long period of zone time and looks at the net. Kessel whistles a shot high and wide.

In the last 10 seconds Letang feeds Jake Guentzel for a shovel attempt that seems to just go wide as a last ditch chance to get the win. Which means for the second straight game (and only fifth time all season) it’s shootout time.

Shootout

NSH sends out Ryan Johansen. He goes in slow, dekes backhand and Murray’s leg stays with him to make the save.

PIT uses Kessel as first shooter. He brings speed, snaps a shot low to the blocker side, but it’s an easy pad save for Rinne.

NSH makes Ellis their second shot. He dekes forehand and tries to slide the puck 5-hole, but Murray saves it.

PIT turns to Crosby, he snaps a quick five-hole shot past the tall goalie. 1-0 in SO

NSH has Brian Boyle as their last shooter, he wrists one that Murray sticks with. Shootout win!

Some thoughts

  • Great night for Crosby backhand passes. Setup four quality chances that way in a highlight package AT&T SportsNet showed.
  • Phil Kessel didn’t score an even strength goal, again. But he was the recipient of one of those glorious Crosby backhand passes all the way across the ice. Kessel got a great look at the net, just can’t buy one. Also had 1 SOG and 4 shots missing the target, including that OT look. Aim small, miss small, hopefully he’s not trying to hit too tight a space, just be on net should be a starting point.
  • The shuffling of Rust on and off the Crosby line always seems to be done at the perfect time to yield results. Right now it’s looking like he should never leave it again, but of course at some point he will and then be moved back in the future, and then look great again. It’s a subtle touch but one of Sullivan’s most effective tools.
  • Tough break for Murray to give up a goal late again. There’s never a good time to give up a goal when the team in front only provides 1 goal of support and the Penguins are again asking for no less than perfection from their goalie. Sound familiar? Seems like it’s said about every single game. Goalies aren’t perfect and while from a keyboard it’s easy to say Murray coulda/shoulda been tight to the post, he also had to respect a centering pass for a backdoor tap in just as much as a direct shot on goal there.
  • Murray could have made it four straight shutout games against Nashville too. A bit of redemption with three shootout saves and picking up the W anyways.
  • Bjugstad looked like a man among boys in that game, and not just because of his 6’6 frame. He was bouncing off players, driving to the net, powering the puck, it looked like his type of game in a tough, competitive “fight for every inch” type of contest. Had him circled as interesting to watch since he only has 5 career NHL playoff games under his belt.
  • The out of town scoreboard really cooperated tonight too. Carolina fell 6-3 to Tampa, and NYI lost 4-0 to Montreal. Can never count on seeing good news there, but it certainly was two meaningful and favorable results. The opportunity to get in the 2v3 Metro playoff spot looks a lot more likely after tonight. But, the picture can change on a nightly basis, so stay tuned.

And stay tuned we will. Next game Saturday night as the road trip continues with the annual trip to Dallas.