The Penguins use the skaters as expected, but an interesting wrinkle is they give Matt Murray what’s become a rare start. It’s unusual and a break from recent tendencies and a tough spot to face a team averaging 3.61 goals/game so far this season in the Avalanche (2nd in the NHL) but such is life in the NHL.
Ready for battle.#LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/96SueWu9LY— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 11, 2020
Early on it was pretty much the Nathan MacKinnon show. Shots in the first were 9-7 Colorado, with the MVP candidate in MacKinnon taking four of those shots (and also had two more attempts that were blocked) in the first period alone. His speed was flashing all over the ice and the Pens looked like they were fighting a losing battle trying to contain the high-powered first line.
The lone goal of the period’s sequence really started with that first line drawing a penalty. Evgeni Malkin did slash at Gabriel Landeskog’s hands, and it did cause a change of possession so it’s not a bad call per se, but Landeskog did seem to put a little extra, um, showmanship in it shall we say with an excessive shake of the hands off a not that vicious looking move. It worked though, drawing the Avs the first power play of the game.
The made it count too with MacKinnon taking a cross-ice pass from Samuel Girard and wiring in a beauty of a one-t slapper past Murray for tha Dogg’s 27th goal of the season.
Samuel Girard of the @Avalanche has collected eight assists since Jan. 1 - the most among all players in that span. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/xAAcaIZSDG— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 11, 2020
Murray did pretty well in the period, all things considered, he made a few nice saves but it really felt like a matter of time before that first line with Landeskog, MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen found a way to hit the back of the net, and indeed they did. But Pittsburgh does get out of the period only down a goal on the road.
The Pens do what they typically do and regain some composure and regroup at intermission. Early on Brandon Tanev sends a nice pass in for Zach Aston-Reese to get a nice shot in alone on Pavel Francouz, but the save is made.
Pittsburgh gets their first power play of the game when ex-Penguin Ian Cole’s stick rises up and hits ex-Avalanche Andrew Agozzino in the face. Colorado kills it off though.
The Pens stayed at it, forcing Erik Johnson to take a tripping call to give a second power play. Pittsburgh didn’t score there but 16 seconds later they strike. What started as a John Marino point shot brushed Dominik Kahun and kicked out to an open Teddy Blueger. Blueger had a nice angle on the right-glove catching Francouz to flip the puck in and tie the game at 1.
That's four points in four games for Teddy Blueger. pic.twitter.com/yEcnovila0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 11, 2020
Before the period ends, disaster strikes for the Pens with a terrible bounce and goal allowed by Murray. In a way, it’s a cruel but fitting evening out of luck for Landeskog — who scored an own goal in OT to give the Pens a win in the last COL/PIT game in October. Here, he innocently flips a puck from behind the blue line (with Tanev ironically the closest Penguin to him, not that he had anything to do with the play at all but it just feels fitting), and the darn thing catches a perfect bounce right over Murray. You see that happen sometimes in men’s league. You don’t really see that happen in the NHL. Just a head-scratcher, but what can ya say? Oof. 2-1 Avs.
Sometimes ya just get lucky...#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/DkhW8AaF8i— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 11, 2020
Shots in the period are 11-7 Pittsburgh. Much better for the Pens. Shame the seventh and final “shot” wasn’t really a shot at all and still somehow ended up in the net..
Well, for Murray giving up a bad goal, at least he did shake it off and make a save on a rush in the first minute which allowed Kahun to carry the puck the other way. It got to Malkin for a zone entry and eventually to who else but Bryan Rust to pounce on a chance and shoot five-hole on Francouz. For what also wasn’t the best goal to give up, but at this point the Pens will gladly take it without feeling bad. 2-2 game.
Kahun ➡️ Malkin ➡️ Rust ➡️ TIE GAME pic.twitter.com/TqMadD8T3m— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 11, 2020
Patric Hornqvist goes to the box to give the Avs a second power play but this time Murray and the PK group stands tall.
Pittsburgh gets a first lead of the game, and it’s from their first line again. Kahun kicks the puck out to Malkin who snipes far side on the glove side of the right handed catching Francouz. 3-2 Pens.
GENO MACHINO! pic.twitter.com/0psVPvavYv— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 11, 2020
Rust takes a penalty with 3:03 left by flipping the puck out of the surface and the Pens have to kill one more. They do, but they can’t escape with a regulation win, shortly after the penalty ends, the Avs pull the goalie and Pittsburgh can’t clear the d-zone and that proves costly.
Defender Cale Makar rips a shot from the middle of the ice near the blue line through all sorts of traffic that human piece o’ trash Matt Calvert deflects from in front with 30 seconds left that Murray never has a chance on to tie the game at 3.
Matt Calvert gets us the point off a huge shot from Cale Makar.#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/Yu1xHVcdaY— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 11, 2020
The Pens do a pretty good job of puck control and possession, which is all important in the 3-on-3 OT action. Jared McCann ends it for Pittsburgh to get the win.
WE LOVE THAT MCCANN DO ATTITUDE! pic.twitter.com/DjVtuyNQwp— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 11, 2020
Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold. As a Pens’ fan you kind of have to appreciate what players like MacKinnon and McDavid and Matthews can do at times with their youth, raw bursts of speed, sublime handsy skill plays and all that jazz. It’s pretty much what we’ve been on the good side for the last 15 years with Crosby and Malkin terrorizing the rest of the league and sometimes there just isn’t a defense for greatness like that. It’s not fun to be helpless to watch, but it sometimes takes some self-awareness to be like “ahh, that’s what it’s like to be on the short-end of the stick to a player with raw skill that’s worth the price of admission alone”. And MacKinnon certainly is that type of player in that type of zone right now.
Teddy is a bear. Blueger went 10 for 15 (67%) in the faceoff circle. Scored a big goal. Has five points last four games and really helping the Pens survive with the injuries to Crosby and Nick Bjugstad. He also had five shots on goal in this game, three hits and a blocked shot.
More gumption by the Pens. The Pens could have slunk away when they went down 2-1 after a bad, fluky but inexcusable goal by Murray. They were on the road. Dealing with playing at elevation. Against a first place team. A million injuries. Backbreaking goal against after dominating the whole second period. Would have been understandable if the Pens lost this one. But they didn’t, scoring the next two goals. Murray, for his part, was strong too in the third, showing some needed bounce back after giving up a goal in a situation that an NHL goalie just can’t give up. (And, to be fair, the other goalie gave up about 2-3 pretty soft goals as well, which always helps)..) All is well that ends well, right?
Another game against a Western Conference team, another win. The Pens will gladly pocket the two points and move on to the last game of the road trip, looking to improve further on the 2-0-0 western swing with a date Sunday in Arizona.