The Penguins use the same lineup again, and again keep their goalie rotation going so it’s Matt Murray’s turn in the crease today.
As usual, a slow start for the Pens in an afternoon game. Detroit burns them on the rush with Jack Johnson turning his back awkwardly to the danger (lol, don’t ask) and Kris Letang allows a pass to go through him giving Valtteri Filppula plenty of time and space to go to his backhand and flip the puck in past a sprawling Murray. 1-0.
Pittsburgh gets it back though as the fourth line does something good for the first time in a long, long time. Nice job by Andrew Agozzino to steal a puck from a Red Wing behind the net. The entire line then proceeds to totally crash the net, Patric Hornqvist is flying around and apparently Sam Lafferty is the last to touch it as it gets jammed past Jimmy Howard to tie the game at 1.
Can't stop, won't stop. pic.twitter.com/RfFSwSUZq0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2020
They change the goal to Hornqvist, and he came by it honestly, earning that goal by getting punched in the no-no zone by Howard.
Justin Abdelkader takes the game’s first penalty and Kris Letang makes the Red Wings pay by scoring his 14th goal of the season. Nice traffic in front in the form of Hornqvist and a leaping Bryan Rust.
A LASER FROM KRIS LETANG!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2020
With this tally, Letang ties his career-high of six power-play goals (set in 2013.14).@Letang_58 is second among NHL defenseman for the most power-play goals. pic.twitter.com/mpCEE83dLp
At the end of the first it’s Detroit up 15-9 in shots, but Pittsburgh up 2-1 where it counts on the scoreboard.
The Pens strike out of no where to make it 3-1. Agozzino does a great job to help hold the puck in the blueline, and Hornqvist makes a spinning shot that rises into the net before Howard even knows what has happened. The perks of being a volume shooter perfectly displayed here for Hornqvist’s third point of the night!
Quick stick lift. Quicker release.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2020
Patric Hornqvist is on fire today. pic.twitter.com/9vHQaIS83u
The Pens go ahead and make it 4-1, great domination by their first line to have a really good shift. Dominik Simon makes a typical Dominik Simon under-the-radar play by keeping the puck in the blueline to keep it going. Eventually Sidney Crosby finds a lot of space and Marcus Pettersson gives him a nice pass to totally lean into and mercifully end Howard’s night.
SIDNEY CROSBY GOES BAR DOWN. pic.twitter.com/YEibtMn0ei— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2020
Hornqvist gets his hat trick to make it 5-1 on backup Jonathan Bernier. Nice play made by Brandon Tanev to lay a puck into space for Hornqvist after fighting through a couple of checks. Hornqvist shows some nice hands to finish his third goal of the game and 15th of the season.
SOUND THE HORNQVIST x 3! pic.twitter.com/ZBl1wIaVD6— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2020
After giving 15 shots in the first period, the Pens buckle down and only allow Detroit nine shots in the second. Pittsburgh also filled the net and appeared to break the will and spirit of the Wings in this game.
Hockey was played in the third period. Not much of it though as both teams seemed pretty comfortable just getting out of this one with the result long decided. As NBC picked up, Evgeni Malkin did a great job backchecking in the third period of a four goal lead, which is pretty encouraging and shows just how dialed in Malkin is.
Detroit gets a brief flurry of a couple good scoring chances late but Murray makes a few nice saves. Dylan Larkin then confronts Bryan Rust well behind the play and gets a penalty with 4 minutes left. Pittsburgh calls off the dogs, just using their normal first line and playing two defensemen. They don’t score, but they weren’t really trying too hard.
The final buzzer sounds and this one is over. The Wings are just not very good, but the Pens did what they had to do in order to get the job done and get that win.
Some parting thoughts
Fourth line chips in! Feels like forever since something good happened for the Pens that was created by their fourth line. Besides the occasional Laffery goal those guys just haven’t had much going on. Adding Hornqvist worked, and helped keep them focused on going to the net and they got two goals in this game. That’s obviously huge. However the success didn’t lead to much extra work (aside from HQ who got bumped up after Zach Aston-Reese left the game early with an undisclosed injury). Lafferty only played 6:02 in the first two periods. Agozzino 5:52.
Jimbo. Jimmy Howard’s record this season is now 2-22-2. I have no further real commentary, just wanted to share that.
Pettersson looking more offensive. Thought it was a great game for #28 for the Pens. Pettersson was noticeable in a good way in the offensive zone. The pass to Crosby was clearly his highlight of the day, but just a good game all around.
Clean game. No penalties for the Pens this game, only one by Detroit in the competitive portion of the game (and I thought it was a pretty weak call at that). Perfect game for Pittsburgh, just play clean and let the obvious difference in quality of these two teams come to the surface. That’s pretty much how it went.
Day game success. It feels like a running narrative or perception among some Pens fans that the team doesn’t perform or fare well in afternoon games. This however isn’t accurate, as Pittsburgh improves today to a 10-5-1 record in their last 16 early starts. That’s a pace of 108 points over a full 82-game season. Number of actual points in the Sullivan era: 100, 100, 111, 104. However the Pens have surrendered the first goal (including today) 12 times in the last 16 day games, so perhaps that’s where the context is being lost. It’s true to say that the Pens certainly are not good at the BEGINNING of day games, generally speaking, but they still overall perform very well and find ways to at levels at or above how they play at night.
NHL games don’t get much easier than that. Next week on tap is a home-and-home with Toronto on Tuesday and Thursday that starts in the ‘Burgh.