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Recap: Devils Night, New Jersey spoils Crosby’s season debut in 4-2

Sid is back, but New Jersey sends the Pens’ fans home unhappy

New Jersey Devils v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

Sidney Crosby is back to start his 17th season in the NHL. And not a moment too soon. Jeff Carter is also back as the Penguins can actually field a lineup that looks like a NHL-caliber group of centers for the first time this season.

First period

The Pens get it first, but it’s not one of their skilled players, it’s some newcomers. Juuso Riikola, in his first NHL game of the season, gets the puck down low and makes a centering pass with a lot of danger on it for the Devils. The initial chance by Zach Aston-Reese doesn’t go, but the puck stays loose long enough to Danton Heinen to vulture in and snap it past Jonathan Bernier. 1-0 Pens, 12:23 into the game.

The Pens can’t get out of the first period with a lead, though. With just 36 seconds left, the Devs basically try a centering pass that has enough gusto on it to get redirected and take a favorable bounce off Evan Rodrigues and past Tristan Jarry. 1-1 game, Andreas Johnsson credited with the goal.

Shots in the first are 14-9 NJ.

Second period

Wheels fall off a bit for the Pens in the middle frame, for a sloppy and no good period. New Jersey gets the only goal of the period late when Sidney Crosby doesn’t get enough on a pass and John Marino dives in vain to knock the puck away from Jimmy Vesey. But Vesey chips it around Marino (much like Johnny Gaudreau of Calgary chipped a puck to himself last game past Marino) and Vesey is all alone...He dekes backhand and calmly slides the puck through Jarry. 2-1 lead for NJ.

Overall, it hasn’t been going that great for the Pens’ top lines.

Shots in the second period are again 14-9 NJ, the same as the first period. Jarry has played well to this point to keep Pittsburgh in this game, while being out-shot 28-19 through 40 minutes.

Third period

Early on, the Pens tie the game. A terrific offensive individual effort by Teddy Blueger to win a puck back in the corner and then make a great centering pass when falling sets Brock McGinn up from right in front. McGinn makes no mistakes, quickly snapping a hard shot past Bernier to tie the game at 2, just 2:02 into the final frame on McGinn’s second of the season.

Then In the first nine minutes of the third period, the Pens have two separate power plays. This is clearly their golden opportunity to take the lead. It slips through their collective hands, but not for the lack of some nifty passing that almost pays off, if not for Jonas Siegenthaler getting back in time to foil a bang-bang passing play.

It looks like we might be headed for overtime, but New Jersey doesn’t let the Pens get there. Crosby has to take down Jesper Bratt resulting in the rare penalty shot. Perhaps taking note of Vesey, Bratt swings wide and then dekes smoothly to his backhand for the easy goal. 3-2 NJD with just three minutes left.

Then the game gets sloppy, Marino made a bad outlet pass and looked to make a change at the same moment Jarry was getting called to the bench. The result is Johnsson has an open net to shoot out, but unfortunately for Jarry with him still on the ice it counts against his GAA and save %. 4-2 NJD to finish the game off.

Some thoughts

  • A pretty unsatisfying return for Crosby. Sid ends up the night with 19:16 played, 2 shots on goal, two hits, two giveaways and just 8 of 22 (35%) on faceoffs. Crosby has usually been 55%+, it’s a new beginning for him coming back from the wrist injury. He was also on the ice for three of the four NJD goals on the night.
  • Nice to see the Blueger line all get on the board tonight with points. It was only the first assist of the season for Blueger (and just his second 5v5 point in the eight game of the season). For the third and sometimes second most important player there has to be a hint of production and offensive input, regardless of the role.
  • Riikola got into his first game and played an even 18 minutes. That was pretty interesting, considering the player he replaced (Mark Friedman) hasn’t even played 16 minutes in his first six games of the season.
  • Pretty crazy for Marino that two times in two games he tries to step up in the zone and the player against him chips the puck around him and then goes off on a breakaway to score. When that’s Gaudreau, OK, yeah he’s good. Jimmy Vesey? Ouch. Like they say, everyone in the NHL is very good.
  • Overall on the night Marino, like Crosby, was a -3, and it just hasn’t been going so smooth for Marino since replacing Kris Letang on the top pair. It’s a tough job, Letang’s done it style for many years now. Marino was having an impressive go of the year on the second pair, but has been out of his element on the top line and top PP in the Letang replacement role.
  • Not scoring in the third to take the lead, with two power play chances, really came back to bite the Pens. And they didn’t put the puck in the net but the power play was at least passing it around and looking dangerous.
  • Kasperi Kapanen had one really good shot stopped by Bernier from a cross-ice Carter pass, but otherwise just has been too quiet and not putting his stamp on the game enough this season.

The losing streak is up to three, but rest is a weapon and the Pens will get that being inactive for games until Thursday.