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Pens/Bruins Recap: Same old story - early hole, late surge. Pens get a point in OT loss

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We’ve seen this before, the Pens start slow and roar back to get a result. But they can’t finish the deal and fall 3-2 on the road in OT to Boston

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Drew O’Connor gets the call up from the taxi squad and will be making his NHL debut!

The Bruins ride with Tuukka Rask and don’t have the services of defenseman Matt Grzelcyk due to injury.

First period

The Pens draw a power play, that should be a good thing, right? Wrong. The Bruins stingy PK steps up and scores as Jared McCann gets jammed by a pass, Charlie McAvoy is able to snap it up ahead to Brad Marchand. Marchand dances inside of Kris Letang and makes Tristan Jarry look helpless with the shot. 1-0 Boston.

Pittsburgh gets a second power play, but again does very little with it.

Shots in the first are 11-6 Boston, which is even worse than it might seem considering the Pens had a 4:00-0:00 advantage in power plays.

Second period

The Pens get a third straight power play on a weak call against Brad Marchand and again fail to take advantage of it. Then the Bruins get the benefit of a couple fairly weak calls and find themselves with 1:21 of 5v3. The Pens’ PK does well to hold strong for a bit, but Boston finally is able to isolate and pick them a part when Marchand makes a pass right through the crease for Nick Ritchie to just lean on his stick and have the puck bounce into the open net. 2-0 Boston.

The Pens’ get a fourth power play of the game and actually get some scoring chances! Jake Guentzel feeds Rust in front and Rask is down and out but able to make a flashy desperation glove save when Rust’s shot just kinda hits the glove.

A more wide open period saw a total shots in the 2nd as 17-15 in favor of Pittsburgh. That’s pretty big since the Bruins were allowing 22 shots PER GAME coming into this one. Overall, shots are 26-23 Boston.

Third period

Brian Dumoulin went down to block a shot at the end of the second period and did not return for the 3rd period. Wee!

The Pens get a sixth power play and the Boston PK has built so much momentum and confidence that they actually keep Pittsburgh pinned in their own end for the first 40 seconds. Just unbelievable. Finally the second PP gets set up and works the puck around, Rask appears to get hurt a bit and Jason Zucker is able to take advantage to score his first goal of the season.

Rask squirms in pain for a bit, but stays in the net.

The Pens continue to push for the tying goal. Malkin feeds Kasperi Kapanen for a breakaway, Rask stops his shot.

Jarry makes a good stop to keep the Pens close and then it pays off. Malkin again feeds Kapanen who uses his speed to get around McAvoy. Kapanen’s shot may have been obstructed by McAvoy’s hook, but that proves to be a blessing and the puck ends up sliding five hole on Rask. Kapanen’s first as a Penguin makes it 2-2 with 3:16 left in the game.

So now

Overtime

Pens control the puck early, Malkin feeds Rust for a breakaway but his one-handed shot doesn’t go. A bit later Malkin gets a breakaway of his own and snipes but it hits the crossbar.

Pittsburgh later gets a clean 3-on-0 rush and Malkin and Letang exchange passes with neither look to shoot and Rask was able to poke the puck away.

With 10.9 seconds to go, the Bruins win on a 2-on-0 rush of their own when they do elect to shoot the puck (novel concept!) and Craig Smith finishes off the game.

Some thoughts

  • Rask was excellent at breaking up the Pens flow throughout the game by stopping dumped pucks behind the net and helping load up so his skaters could exit the zone cleanly. It happened time and again and was instrumental at stopping the Pens from keeping their momentum going.
  • Pittsburgh had a few cracks though. Early on, Guentzel chipped a puck to Rust who got his third breakaway in two games but shot the puck high. Rust’s speed and positioning and the ability of Crosby and Guentzel to get him the puck is a great sign.
  • Rust also got a great look at the net and a lot of open areas with a pass from Guentzel on the power play in what was a 1-0 game. Couldn’t convert and being as real scoring opportunities were few and far between, that stands out.
  • It looked like the Pens were staggering defensive pairings more in an attempt to get Kris Letang out with the Malkin line as much as they could. Probably a wise idea to try and help that struggling second line get on the board.
  • Malkin also got caught with a cross-check in the side with no padding. That hurts but in a way I was wondering if it could be a good thing and help jolt him back into form. In some ways it might have been one of his best games, he was backchecking more, making better plays with the puck had 2 SOG and 5 total shot attempts and an assist and a few really nice passes.
  • Nice to see the second line getting on the board. Zucker’s goal was after a PP expired, but getting him on the scoresheet is an important development. As is Kapanen’s first goal of the season. Malkin made 2 nice plays in the third period to send Kapanen in alone. That style combo of skill and speed going north up the ice makes a lot of sense and paid dividends.
  • Checking in on top-four Cody Ceci is not a pretty picture: through two periods Boston had 24 5v5 Corsi events and Ceci was on the ice for a Pens-high 14 of them. Ceci was also on ice for a team high 9 scoring chances, 5 high danger scoring chances against through two, and a 36.7% Corsi% by the end of the game. It’s a tough look and rather unfortunate this is where they’re at after just one important injury on the defense, and with Dumoulin leaving with an injury that’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

Unlocking the 3 keys to the game (from the recap)

#1: Sid vs Pat. As usually is the case, Bergeron threw Crosby off his game in the faceoff circle. Crosby was well under 50%, an off-night for him but typical against Bergeron.

#2: What style wins? Early Boston set the tone by only allowing six Pittsburgh shots in the first period. That’s definitely the style they want to play and clamp down and not allow much rubber flying at their net. The Pens bounced back with a 17 shot second period, which is commendable, but they were unable to light the lamp there. Overall, especially with sloppy power play work, this wasn’t the type of game that Pittsburgh would want. It was right up Boston’s alley, until the Pens clawed back for a game-tying goal late.

#3: Cracking the PK. This one didn’t turn out well for the Pens. The Bruins’ 90% PK killed off all six Pittsburgh power plays, and Boston struck for a crucial opening goal while shorthanded. The Boston PK has now given up as many goals on the season as they have scored while shorthanded (2). Their xGF% on the PK was above 50% for a bit, which is just unheard of. The Pens’ power play right now is in shambles and a mess.

Considering the Pens entered the 3rd period down 2-0, on the road in a place they never win, just getting to overtime feels like a fairly decent result. With a little bit better execution, they easily could have won the game in overtime about three times over, but it didn’t go that way.

Still, with the way they played over the last two periods, that’s something to build on. Getting Kapanen and Zucker going is a positive. Malkin showing some signs of life and making plays happen is a really good thing. Now, to avoid bad starts and falling behind and giving up early goals in the first place! We’ll see if that’s in the cards for Thursday when these two team lock up again.