The Penguins welcome back Jared McCann from a brief injury miss and rotate the goalies yet again with Matt Murray getting his turn in the crease. Zach Trotman is also in on his off-side for Juuso Riikola because...reasons.
The Pens get some good early pressure, Kris Letang gets a great chance from the left side but hits the post.
Evan Rodrigues gets whistled for tripping when he upends a Ducks player behind the net but Pittsburgh kills it off.
Anaheim strikes first. Trotman can’t clear the puck and it eventually leads to a Danton Heinen shot hits Murray, Trotman and flutters into the net. 1-0 ANA.
The Pens get a break, Ryan Getzlaf gets called for a weak hooking call and he lets the ref know it. A little too much because they decide to give the Anaheim captain an extra two minutes for an unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Pens a four minute power play with 56 seconds left. They don’t score but get a carryover on fresh ice.
Shots in the first are 10-2 Pens. But defensive breakdowns are 1-0 Pens, so the score is 1-0 Anaheim.
The Pens’ PP goes to work, first group doesn’t get it, they change and the second unit scores. Marcus Pettersson gets into space and blasts a shot from the blueline. Jason Zucker tips it in front of the net and John Gibson has no chance. 1-1 game.
Schultz ➡️ Pettersson ➡️ Zucker ➡️ pic.twitter.com/xN1UfjeFQT— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 29, 2020
Next shift, Jack Johnson is on his forehand but gets pressured so he clears the puck. Tries for the typical off the glass and out, but doesn’t get the glass. Penalty for puck out of play. Pittsburgh kills it off.
Game gets a little feisty when Zucker takes a shot, Gibson saves for a whistle and a scrum ensues. Matt Irwin takes an extra penalty, has a little bit of that Nashville stank still on him, one supposes. Anaheim kills the penalty, and gets the best scoring chance on it with an odd-man rush that Murray coolly gloves down.
After the penalty, in a goal scramble Justin Schultz high-sticks Getzlaf and draws blood to earn a four minute penalty. Getzlaf makes the Pens’ pay by scoring on the front end of the PP after a comedy of errors with Johnson failing to block a cross-ice pass, Rodrigues not covering anyone and Letang unable to be anywhere near Getzlaf. 2-1 Ducks.
On a puck battle, Max Jones boards Chad Ruhwedel to neutralize the advantage. But on that power play Evgeni Malkin gets called for a weak hook (much like Getzlaf in the first period) then again just like Getzlaf, Malkin is indignant with the refs going to the box...And like Getzlaf the ref rings him up for an extra minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, which is only fair given the standard previously set.
Anaheim gets 3:37 worth of a power play after it cycles through. The Pens kill it off, and the best chance of the whole sequence is when Bryan Rust has a chance from in front but Gibson robs him.
The Pens get out of sorts on the follow through, and Anaheim scores off a rush play. Brendan Guhle makes it 3-1 firing a wrister through traffic that evades Murray.
Shots are 15-9 Anaheim in the second, in a bit too wide open of a special teams focused period.
The Ducks get whistled for too many men but the Pens can’t do anything with it.
Zucker gets space on the rush and beats Gibson but the puck rings off the post as the bad luck carries on.
Pens load it up with a Malkin-Crosby-Rust line but can’t get it going.
When all hope looks lost, the Pens pull Murray and Zucker scores ripping a shot from the left wing past Gibson to make it 3-2 for a rare 5v6 goal.
Pittsburgh uses the timeout to rest the top players for one last gasp.
The Pens get some zone time but can’t find the equalizer. 3-2 Anaheim win.
No juice. No even strength offense for the Pens tonight, since even the desperation goal wasn’t 5v5, as the struggles continue. Gibson was good, he got some post luck too. Just nothing going right for Pittsburgh, as evidenced now by a five game losing streak.
Lineup decisions leave questions. Despite Juuso Riikola playing well last game, he was a scratch tonight. For a replacement level player in Trotman. On his off-hand. Just makes no sense at all. And it came back to burn the Pens as they would give up the first goal of a game, yet again, when Trotman failed to clear the puck in a sequence that saw more bad luck with the puck going in off him and into the net. It’s bad enough the Pens have a depleted defense through injury, battling through poor lineup decisions by the coach to keep Johnson on the top pair and scratch Riikola in favor of Trotman makes it an even steeper hill to climb.
But, maybe for the best, the Pens get back at it tomorrow. It doesn’t seem like they’re too far away from breaking through, yet that’s been the case for all of the last three games where something has let them down. They’ll look for answers again in San Jose.