An ECHL level goalie (due to a passport issue) making his NHL debut - if only in the lineup - in Emil Larmi? A NHL debut by a forward in Thomas Di Pauli? Several key players out? Four different Penguin players with a jersey number in the 50’s? Are we sure this isn’t a preseason game?
Lined up and ready to faceoff against Montreal. pic.twitter.com/fKaQVveEpm— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 4, 2020
For their part, the Canadiens are also icing a weaker than possible lineup in several regards. Misery loves company.
Early on, Marcus Pettersson gets nabbed for hooking so Montreal gets the old avantage numerique (power play). The Penguins shut that down, but not too much after, Nick Suzuki uses his speed to cancel out an icing, Max Domi makes a great deke and gets the puck to Artturi Lehkonen who shoots it past Matt Murray to open the scoring.
The Pens get a quick response just 46 seconds later, Teddy Bluger makes a pass to Zach Aston-Reese who pulls a nice move to his forehand and shoots far-side on Carey Price. 1-1 game just like that.
Game gets a little chippy when Domi acts like a child after Pettersson shut him down in front of the net. The two get in a fight, and for once Pettersson doesn’t get the worst of it (though watching him throw a fist multiple times into Domi’s helmet wasn’t fun). Pittsburgh gets the extra power play for Domi’s break down. Patric Hornqvist hits the post and the refs parading players to the box continues when Kris Letang gets whistled for a trip.
Jared McCann, with only one goal in his last 16 games, gets a chance putting the puck past Shea Weber, but Price stones him. McCann draws a penalty on the effort when he’s slashed, sending the Pens back to the power play. The first ends with 1:35 of carryover PP time for the Pens.
Shots in the first are 10-8 Pittsburgh. 5v5 shots are 6-4 Pens. Overall a bit of bad breaks to not be winning, all situation xGF is 1.84 to 0.52 according to Natural Stat Trick.
Pittsburgh has a lackluster power play, Montreal even gets two nice chances to score with two saves by Murray. But then disaster when Letang makes a poor decision and throws a weak pass out to the front of the net that Jack Johnson is falling away from. Lehkonen steps in between and pitches it past Murray before either defender can recover. 2-1 MTL.
The Pens take a penalty as the penalty-fest continues, but kill it off. Then Evgeni Malkin sets Bryan Rust up for his second great chance of the game but Price stones him.
Pittsburgh gets a chance soon after for yet another power play and they get a little more zone time at least on this one, but don’t really come all that close to scoring.
Then it becomes the Pens’ turn to go shorthanded when Johnson hits Domi in the chest with his stick and that’s called a high stick for some reason. Fittingly, Pittsburgh kills the penalty.
Price just at the top of his game early on in this one.
Shots in the second end up being 13-10 MTL, but overall for the game are 21-19 PIT. Lehkonen’s two goals and Price’s excellent goaltending are the difference at this point.
Newly acquired Canadien Marco Scandella rings a shot off the cross-bar, Pens get lucky to stay in the game just down a goal after that. Soon after, sure enough, as the old hockey adage goes the team that can’t score on a glorious chance gets burned. Red hot Bryan Rust stays hot, following up on a Jack Johnson wide point shot that hit the back wall and kicked out, Rust slings it quickly into the open net. 2-2 game.
Bryan Rust now has 34 points (17G-17A) in 27 games played this season. pic.twitter.com/3jpGF3XbZ0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2020
After watching Price make a ton of big saves at the other end of the nice, Murray makes a huge one himself, denying Lehkonen a hat trick on a breakaway and to keep the game tied.
Weber makes a nice defensive play hunting down Rust to deny him a shot at a breakaway and that leads to OT.
Either Murray or his post makes a big stop early as the teams trade 2-on-1s in the always frantic 3v3 overtime.
Eventually it’s Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev scoring on a 2-on-1 when Tanev pops in a rebound from a Blueger shot. But almost immediately the refs start investigating if Blueger interfered with Price and take an automatic review. Blueger appears to make the faintest of contact, but Price’s momentum was pulling his body the other way. It ends up being a good goal, as it should have been with Tanev playing the hero and earning the extra point.
Brandon Tanev OT Winner— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) January 5, 2020
3-2 PIT pic.twitter.com/Y8fy0HcNrG
Finding a way. A lot was against the Pens tonight; Price was very good. The officials were calling a lot of penalties, which isn’t good for Pittsburgh because it meant 7:05 of penalty kills (which they did fine at killing it all, but in a game you’re mostly chasing/behind, going on the PK isn’t conducive to winning). And the Pens’ power play had another poor night going 0/4 and really coming closer to allowing a goal than scoring one, aside from one Hornqvist post shot. Still, from a trailing position the team battled back, got a third period tying goal and an OT winner. It’s not always pretty and wasn’t again tonight, but it was very functional.
Strong game for Murray. For the first time in a long time this was an indisputably strong game for Murray, stopping 26/28 shots and not allowing a goal in the last 36+ minutes of the game to keep his team in it. If not for the bad pass by Letang to gift a goal, Murray would have gotten out of this game only allowing one goal for the first time in recent memory. Either way, has to be good for Murray’s confidence to finally put a strong performance out there.