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Recap: Hurtin’ Albertan. Markstrom, Flames shutout Penguins

The Penguins can’t solve Jacob Markstrom as Calgary skates off with a 4-0 win

Calgary Flames v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins give Casey DeSmith his second start of the season, and use the same lineup as last game. One small wrinkle, Kasperi Kapanen has been reunited with Jason Zucker.

First period

It’s all Calgary early on, as the Flames basically keep the puck in the Pens’ end in the early going for most of the play. Pittsburgh stabilizes a bit, but gets caught on the rush with Johnny Gaudreau tipping the puck past John Marino and gets off to the races. Gaudreau’s shot looks like it jams off the end of Marino’s stick check attempt and went to straight to the top shelf. 1-0 with 12:58 left.

Pittsburgh gets the game’s first power play a few minutes later, and then Erik Gudbranson high-sticks Jason Zucker in front of the net just 19 seconds into the PP to send Pittsburgh to a long 5v3. Zucker needs to get the blood repaired so we’re down to Brian Boyle, top unit power play.

..Needless to say, the Pens don’t score and fritter away a total of 4:19 of power play time with really only one decent Jake Guentzel chance to show for it despite a few shots.

Period ends with the Pens holding a 15-11 shot advantage, with it being 10-8 CGY at 5v5.

Second period

The Pens are better in the second and almost get something going when Zucker gets a breakaway, he doesn’t score but the ensuing scramble has Drew O’Connor see a lot of net to punch the puck into, but Jacob Markstrom recovers with a great save on him.

The Pens get a few more chances but can’t get a puck past Markstrom. With 3:47 left they get another power play. The highlight (lowlight?) comes when they ice the puck and don’t do much else with it.

Shots in the second are 15-12 Pens, and it was a very strong period for them. Unfortunately, no goals for them though. 1-0 CGY going into the final regulation period.

Third period

After all that good work, it’s the Flames who get the all-important second goal, just 1:04 in on an offensive zone draw. Brian Boyle gets kicked out so Sam Lafferty has to take the faceoff for the Pens. Lafferty loses it cleanly and the Flames have Blake Coleman drift back towards the blue line to find the room to shoot and it gets through traffic past DeSmith. 2-0 CGY.

Soon after the Pens take their first penalty at a bad point when in a scramble to try and win the puck back Brian Dumoulin gets rung up for holding a Flame. PK kills it off to keep the game somewhat within reach with DeSmith making a few really great stops.

Pittsburgh’s back to the penalty box soon though with Brock McGinn going for interference, but they again answer the bell and kill it off.

Guentzel puts a pass for Danton Heinen on a 2-on-1 and it’s a quick shot, but Markstrom just eats it up. A bit later Markstrom stones Zucker from right in front too.

Calgary gets a 3-on-2 rush and Gaudreau hits Dillon Dube with a pass. Dube rips a shot short-side on DeSmith’s glove. 3-0 Flames.

A bit later, Drew O’Connor turns the puck over at the blueline for Milan Lucic. Mark Friedman takes away the pass so it’s shooter versus goalie. Shooter wins, with Lucic snapping a puck five-hole on DeSmith to extend the lead to 4-0.

Luckily, that’s all the damage done as the two teams skate out the rest of the game without much of note happening.

Some thoughts

  • Didn’t like the first 10 minutes from the Pens, but the middle 40 were pretty good up until it got to 3-0 and then it got out of hand. Shame that it did, for the majority of this game, with the way Pittsburgh was playing they were right there, hanging right in the contest.
  • But they couldn’t get close because Markstrom had a really great game. At 6’6, it felt like he was covering the whole net all night long, tracking the puck well, rebounds mostly on point. The Pens got a few chances from places they wanted to get chances from, just no finish on the big Swede in net. They made him work for it on a 45 shot night.
  • The power play deficiency continues in a major way. 0-for-4 tonight, the long 5v3 early could have resulted in Pittsburgh tying the game up and getting some momentum, but it didn’t come. Overall just not enough talent on the ice, with only one member (Guentzel) of what would be the ideal power play out there.
  • Having almost 40% of the salary cap injured or in COVID protocol, that’s just bound to happen. If that’s second line center Evgeni Malkin who gets that O’Connor scoring chance from right in front — or even second line center Jeff Carter — history shows us those type of players convert chances into goals. If it’s Sidney Crosby instead of Brian Boyle out there on the 5v3....Well, you get the picture. Losses like that can be felt, playing hard and doing well to generate chances is wonderful to see a team valiantly battle, but the skill of star players can’t be replaced.
  • All the goals DeSmith gave up were in rushes against, Flames players with time and space were finding the corners and able to pick spots on him. It wasn’t the sharpest goaltending performance ever, but with no goal support, it’s not like DeSmith cost the Pens in this game, they were going to lose it no matter what.
  • And, ironically, besides the rush chances that ended up in their net, the Pens’ defense did a pretty good job of suppressing opportunities from near the front of the cage. That’s not of much consolation to anyone now, but more evidence that the game was closer for a while than the lopsided final score indicated.
  • Another bright spot for the Pens continues to be their PK. 2/2 tonight, including having key members of that PK (Dumoulin and McGinn) sitting in the box for penalties.

With just one goal in the last two games, the Pens have run out of the puck luck they had earlier in the week. This team could really use a shot in the arm and improved lineup to compete and get more consistent finishing, along with a power play threat, and the Pens will be keen to hopefully not play too many more games without Carter and Crosby as the days tick along.