The Penguins roll with what’s come to be a familiar looking lineup and group of lines in the past week or so, with a goalie switch on the latter half of a back-to-back so Matt Murray gets back in the crease for some game action.
Pittsburgh gets the first power play but then Sidney Crosby gives it right back after he tied up and took down the Red Wings center. All penalties cycle through quietly.
The Pens get a second power play and they put on a clinic with 2 straight minutes of zone time, all by the top group. They work the puck around, get five shots on goal but can’t solve Jimmy Howard.
Detroit gets a little bit of a push towards the end of the period, highly drafted youngster Filip Zadina flashed for a couple of SOG in tight but Murray was there to keep it scoreless.
Shots are 11-9 Pittsburgh overall, but 9-6 Detroit at 5v5. (The Pens’ power play rung up the shots there). But all situation shot attempts (Corsi) are 25-12 Pens. They definitely controlled shot share yet couldn’t really generate a lot of good scoring looks on the Detroit defense.
Detroit gets their first real look at a power play chance early in the second when Zach Aston-Reese goes to the box. The Red Wings power play gets zone time of their own and make it count. Zadina shoots from the outside with Givani Smith posted right up in front of him. Puck may have grazed Smith’s stick but Zadina gets credit. 1-0 Detroit.
The Pens go short-handed again when Marcus Pettersson trips Dylan Larkin who goes into the end walls pretty heavy and has to leave the game temporarily. This time Pittsburgh kills it off and only gives up one shot on goal in the process.
Pittsburgh is just dreadful in this period. For 18 minutes they have about 4 SOG until a good shift by Crosby and Jared McCann get a few pucks on net, and McCann has a chance from a tough angle to hit some open net but it’s a rolling puck he can’t settle down and he ends up pushing it high and wide. Not bagging him for failing to convert on a bit of a broken play/scramble, just pointing out that sadly, it’s the closest the Pens have come to scoring all night to this point.
Shots are 19-18 DET through two periods. 5v5 shots are 16-13 DET. I repeat, Pittsburgh has 13 5v5 shots and 0 goals through two periods on by far the worst defensive team in the league. Again, facing a 35-year old goalie who has given up an average of 4.26 GAA in 19 games, Pittsburgh has scored 0 goals on him.Straight up not having a good time right now bro, dot jpeg.
After such a dull start, the Pens come out a bit better in the third. Crosby draws a penalty and the first power play strikes. Some nifty passing from Crosby to Kris Letang to Evgeni Malkin to Bryan Rust in short order puts the puck on Rust’s stick with plenty of net to shoot at. He finally gets Pittsburgh on the board with his 20th goal of the season to tie the game at 1.
Letang → Malkin → Rust → Power-Play Goal! pic.twitter.com/7WbN7K7WCo— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 18, 2020
Soon after Pettersson goes BACK to the penalty box and, jeez, he’s been living there lately, has he not? Pittsburgh kills it off without too much trouble though.
Aston-Reese gets a glorious chance from right in the middle but rips the puck off a crossbar. Unbelievable!
This forces overtime.
Pittsburgh controls a draw off the start (interestingly they open with Malkin-Rust- John Marino and let Crosby and Letang start on the bench, which might have been more a function on the last shift of regulation, but still).
Detroit takes a penalty when Luke Glendening egregiously takes out McCann for no reason well away from the play. The Pens finish it on a 4-on-3 power play, Crosby wins the draw and they keep it in the zone. Malkin fakes a shot but it’s really a pass to Crosby who keeps his stick on the ice and angles the puck into the net for the GWG.
Unsatisfying feeling win, but not a hollow one. Crosby and Malkin barely even celebrated the GWG. They knew. Not the greatest showing by their team. They didn’t seem to invest a lot or get a good effort tonight. Third game in four days. A couple of the road. Second end of a back-to-back. Playing a team that’s been off since Tuesday. Maybe we shouldn’t have been shocked this wasn’t a runaway. But Detroit has been SO bad, like by a mile behind all the other teams in the league. Howard especially has been absolutely awful. 2-16-1 coming into tonight, without a win since October. The Pens didn’t do a lot to test him. Maybe they don’t have much left in the tank and know the bye week/all star break is coming. Maybe it was just an off night. Lucky to get the two points and move on.
Crosby scores again. Three goals in three games into his injury comeback for Crosby. That stands out to me only because as Josh Yohe accurately pointed out last week: “Crosby has participated in 69 games in the four seasons following his worst injuries. He has failed to score a goal in 49 of those 69 games, which is a pretty high number for him”. That’s natural and makes sense that it’s tough to jump right back into the swing of a season and score goals. Yet, here Sid is, going 3/3 so far. He had 5 shot attempts tonight. He won 64% of his faceoffs. There doesn’t look like there’s much rust on him at all. Which is perhaps unexpected, but he did get almost 9 weeks of rest/rehab for what may have been a 6-8 week injury. Taking time to get up to full speed and recovery looks like it is paying off in a major way for Crosby and the Pens so far.
Murray advances his cause. More on this tomorrow, but Matt Murray has quietly been pretty good when called upon as of late. Tonight the Red Wings had 29 shots. 20 scoring chances. 8 of them high danger (per NST). An xGF of 1.97. They only got 1 though, and it was with a pretty good screen on the power play. There’s clearly a long way for Murray to go to get back to where he was, but let’s also remember he always is better in the second halves of season than he is in the first. Is this a meaningful step in the right direction? Or just a breather for Tristan Jarry who has built a lot of deserved good will? It’s an interesting decision for Mike Sullivan.
A deceptively quick turnaround for the Pens who have to play about 38 hours after the finish of this game for a Sunday afternoon game at home against Boston. Luckily the Pens have fared a LOT better against the Bruins in Pittsburgh, but it will still prove to be a tough challenge against a first place team. They’ll need to find a lot more energy and motivation than they displayed tonight.