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Penguins/Canadiens Recap: Missed opportunities come back to bite Pittsburgh in 3-2 OT loss

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Jack Johnson is -2, the Pens blow a 5v3 and a penalty shot and fall behind to Montreal in a short series

Montreal Canadiens v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

Lineups

The Penguins roll out as expected with the lines they have been using for most of the lead up to this first game.

No surprises either for the Canadiens.

First period

The Pens come out all guns a’blazin’! The boys are buzzin’ early, no doubt about it. Evgeni Malkin has two great shots early but Carey Price is strong to make the saves. The first 10 shots on goal in the period go 9-1 Pittsburgh as Montreal struggles to keep the Pens at bay, relying on their goalie to help them out.

Time moves on and then Jack Johnson makes his presence known in the 2020 playoffs. Unfortunately, but predictably, that means costing Pittsburgh a goal as Johnson whiffs on a hit, then collides with his own teammate and finally throws a check on a player in towards his own net, helping a bouncing puck hit off Jesperi Kotkaniemi and in past Matt Murray. 1-0 Montreal.

The Canadiens get the first power play of the game when Marcus Pettersson throws a high hit out there. MTL gets one good chance but overall it’s a pretty good kill by the Pens’ PK’ers.

Pittsburgh gets their shot at a power play when Sidney Crosby is downed by Phillip Danault. Being an excellent defensive center, this provides a double opportunity for the Pens to get a power play with Danault stuck in the box.

The first unit is brand new, Kris Letang is back replacing Justin Schultz, and Jason Zucker is in for Patric Hornqvist to join mainstays in Malkin, Crosby and Jake Guentzel. The PP plays like they’ve never played together, though they get one marquee chance when a Letang point shot comes in through traffic and clicks the post. Guentzel gets totally wiped out (in a way Hornqvist seemingly never does) and is unavailable to work for the rebound.

Shots in the first are 18-6 Pens. Carey Price was stout, a bouncing puck on a weird play provides the edge.

Second period

The Pens get caught again, Brian Dumoulin tries to pinch and hold the puck but Nick Suzuki chips it past him and is off to the races on a 2-on-1. Suzuki rushes down the left side and with his RH shot sees plenty of net when Murray drops and blows a shot over his shoulder to extend the lead to 2-0.

Finally, the Pens strike back. Sidney Crosby does Sidney Crosby things, taking a hard shot from behind the goal line and banking the puck in the net off of Price. 2-1 now.

The Pens’ get a second power play when Jonathan Drouin gets caught hooking. Murray has to make a heck of a stop on Joel Armia of a 2-on-1 the other way...And then the Pens give up another 2-on-1 that Letang makes a sprawling diving block.

It pays off and Rust ties the game on the power play with the second group after a Jared McCann shot hits Patric Hornqvist and pops out for Rust to pickle-stab home. 2-2 game.

Shots in the 2nd are 13-8 Montreal, but overall it’s 24-19 Pens. With the game tied at 2 at the most important indicator.

Third period

30 seconds into the period, defensive ace Phillip Danault takes his second penalty of the game. Then, just 28 seconds later, Ben Chariot goes for high-sticking to give the Pens an extended 5v3 power play.

They do not score in a huge missed opportunity.

McCann goes off for a puck-over-glass delay of game soon after, the Pens’ PK holds with Murray making a couple big stops like this one to cut off the cross-ice chance.

Paul Byron gets called for interference giving the Pens another PP chance and they...come up empty.

Then Conor Sheary gets in alone on a breakaway and gets hooked by Brett Kulak drawing a rare playoff penalty shot with about 3 minutes to go in a tie game and surely this is it, right?....Not so fast, Sheary can’t even hit the net when he tries to snap a shot quickly far and low on Price. Problem is it goes too far.

With that, it’s gonna take extra hockey.

Overtime

Three minutes into extra time, defensive guru Danault takes his THIRD penalty of the game, putting MTL way behind the 8-ball and surely the Pens will score now with the Habs at a disadvantage of a man and a great PK’er right?

Wrong.

Montreal kills it off. Soon after, Jonathan Drouin gets a step on Jack Johnson who has to hook Drouin. Penalty shot in OT. My goodness. For such a great teammate like JJ, that’s a tough spot to put the goalie in. He’ll get ‘em next time!

Luckily, much like Sheary, Drouin fumbles the PS and can’t even get a shot on goal.

The Pens though are barely hanging on. Shots are 11-7 MTL in OT. The 12 MTL shot ends the game. Guess if it was the Jack Johnson - Justin Schultz pair losing form and positioning defending the rush?

(Answer: it was the Jack Johnson - Justin Schultz pair losing form and positioning defending the rush)

Here’s another look at it, notice how Tanev overskates his point-man and there’s no defensemen even in the picture. It’s only Zach Aston-Reese to try and block the shot.

And that’s a loss in a quick series. Figure it out.GIF

Some thoughts

  • Weird how the Pens’ power play fix went to...taking Hornqvist off the top group in favor of Zucker. By sheer talent, nothing wrong with that but just a strange decision given the huge body of evidence that Pittsburgh’s power play performs noticeably better when Hornqvist is in the lineup. Why take that out willingly?
  • And the Pens’ PP went 1-for 7. The only goal they scored was the second group, when a point shot hit Hornqvist in front of the net and Rust cleaned up the trash. This shouldn’t be so difficult. Zucker off the top group, Hornqvist on it. Have to figure it out at this point.
  • Malkin looked absolutely amazing early, buzzing at all times, generating a ton of chances. It’s just an eye test, but Crosby by comparison looked a bit tentative and a step slow. Who knows how bad he’s hurting and it’s only up to speculation at this point, but Sid might have to gut out a performance for as long as the Pens last.
  • But, since hockey is weird and random, it was Crosby who scored and Malkin who didn’t have a point. Sometimes it bes like that.
  • Jack Johnson was a -2, made major mistakes and that was even before he gave the opponents a penalty shot in overtime after getting dogged. Just a comically bad performance. Shouldn’t be surprising, still hurts though.
  • Carey Price was good, stopped 39/41, but it still didn’t feel like the Pens made it THAT difficult on him. Especially having a long 5v3 and a penalty shot of their own in the 3rd period. Coulda/shoulda been better.
  • Speaking of, Conor Sheary, come on man! Such a great Phase 3. Back to a pumpkin in Phase 4. Tough to take.
  • The Pens pushed the issue and earned a 7-2 PP advantage. They were the better team getting to the play more. Just couldn’t finish and got a bad bounce or two.
  • Matt Murray wasn’t the Pens problem in this one. 3 goals against in almost 74 minutes. 32 saves on 35 shots (.914 save%). You leave a long 5v3 on the table and miss a 3rd period penalty shot and the real issue isn’t the goalie.

Being down 0-1 in a best-of-five is like being down 0-2 in a best-of-seven. It’s not a good place to be.

That said, pretty much like 80% of this game was just fine, even great for the Pens. Their powerplay let them down. Their worst player let them down. The bounces didn’t work. The other goalie was really good. It’s like all the worst cases adding up. But it has to happen two more times before they’re done. So we’ll see what happens Monday. Win one game and suddenly and it’s a typical 2-2 series in a best-of-seven. Just depends how they decide to respond to the challenge.