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Recap: Poor goaltending, power play, bounces doom Penguins in Ottawa, 6-3

The Penguins don’t have a lot go right and fall behind 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators. A late push gets them somewhat back into the game, but they fall 6-3 on the road

Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins have two changes on defense with Juuso Riikola and P.O Joseph stepping back in to take over for Chad Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson for the day. Casey DeSmith gets his third start of the season.

First period

The Pens do pretty well at first, Jason Zucker hits the post early, and is stopped on a breakaway but Ottawa’s Filip Gustavsson after a nice pass from Kasperi Kapanen springs him.

Pittsburgh gets the first power play of the game late when Brady Tkachuk commits an interference penalty behind the Pens’ net. Just 22 seconds in, the Senators gift the Pens a 5v3 when Zach Sanford high sticks Jake Guentzel, giving Pittsburgh 1:38 of time up two players.

Shamefully, the most notable thing that happens is the Pens give up a breakaway, that Kris Letang has to breakup. Dreadful work and a great opportunity squandered by Pittsburgh.

Shots in the first are 7-6 Pens. Should have been a lot more, with Pittsburgh only recording one shot on the long two-man advantage.

Second period

A little after Jeff Carter hits the post, Ottawa scores. Zach Sanford gets inside position on Brian Boyle and follows up his shot to find the rebound and fire it past Casey DeSmith to open the scoring. 1-0 a little over five minutes into the second.

John Marino heads to the box to give Ottawa their first power play of the game. On an offensive-zone draw, Boyle loses it and Sanford parks in front of DeSmith. The Pens goalie can’t track a pretty weak and routine point shot from Michael Del Zotto and it skitters in. 2-0. Del Zotto gets credit for the goal.

Ottawa then breaks the game open by scoring just 27 seconds after their power play goal to make it 3-0. Kinda some bad luck when the puck hits off Carter and goes right to Parker Kelly. Kelly quickly slams it home past a sliding DeSmith who doesn’t look like he has a good control of his net. It’s 3-0 Sens.

Todd Reirden senses the game is slipping away and calls timeout to break the momentum and settle his team down. It works for a while but late in the second Riikola goes to the box for high-sticking to give Ottawa a second power play.

And they get a second power play goal by controlling the initial faceoff, working the puck around. Again, a bit of funny play with Mark Friedman falling, the puck clicking over to Tim Stutzle off of Friedman’s stick. The young German is able to catch DeSmith leaning the wrong way and rifles the puck to the back of the net. Not a very smooth or professional looking sequence for the Pens or their goalie. 4-0 game, team tota

Rotten period for the Pens, perhaps their worst of the whole season, getting out-scored 4-0 by Ottawa, and out-shot 13-12 in the period.

Third period

Ottawa is content to hang back and let the clock tick off, but then tempers flare in front of DeSmith. Brady Tkachuk and Mike Matheson wrestle around, Sanford and Zucker were involved in a front face-lock, nice to see a little emotion from the Pens, but it looks way too little and too late. Pittsburgh ends up getting a power play out of it. It doesn’t work.

In fact, the Pens don’t get their first shot of the third period until it is nearly half over. By the time they do, Ottawa races back the other way with Tyler Ennis sends a back pass for Drake Batherson. Batherson cuts against the grain to make DeSmith look silly again, but there wasn’t much he could do about this one. 5-0 OTT.

Kapanen gets Pittsburgh on the board to ruin Gustavsson’s shutout with 8:11 left. Friedman feeds Kapanen who has room to inch in closer to the net and pick a spot and then release a big wrister. 5-1.

A minute later, the same line strikes again. Evan Rodrigues shoots from the left circle and it’s a well-placed shot smashed to the top corner. 5-2 with 7:05 left. Now it’s Ottawa’s turn to take a time out to settle things down and try and nip a mounting comeback while they can.

With 4:03 left, the Pens score yet again, this time with the empty net 6v5 situation. It’s Rodrigues again, this time slapping the puck from almost the blueline and it somehow goes in. 5-3 and this game is getting a lot more interesting as the Pens try furiously to mount a comeback.

With 3:44 left, Pittsburgh gets the puck in the Ottawa zone and again pulls their goalie. Letang rings a puck clean off the crossbar. So close to another goal, but the puck flutters to the crowd.

The Pens stay at 6v5 and make it a shooting gallery, but they get no closer. Finally Batherson is able to score into the empty net to make it 6-3. It was a good 7-8 minute push from Pittsburgh, but after falling into a 5-0 hole, a team isn’t often going to climb out of that.

Some thoughts

  • Part of the Pens’ problems on the power play look schematically like they have too many right handed shots right now. The standard setup has Letang in the back passing to Kapanen on the left, or Rust to the right, neither of whom look particularly comfortable or are in positions to do much. And then they try to rotate with each other or Letang and are still in the same boat anyways with all those RH shots out there.
  • Or might as well put Rodrigues out there, not that it matters with Crosby presumably back soon.
  • Prepare yourself for about a million “what is wrong with DeSmith” takes. And he’s not helping his cause with that second period and, well, not very strong starts dating back to the end of last season, really. Good will evaporates quick when you’re a backup goalie in the NHL, especially one who has given up 14 goals in three games this season.
  • So let’s talk about it. The Del Zotto goal is beyond a routine shot and just can’t be a goal at the NHL level. Just can’t be. CDS is dealing with a screen, but that simply can’t end up in the back of the net. Some of the other goals were more bad fortune than anything else, but DeSmith flopping around and losing his net a few times didn’t lead to very good visuals watching him unable to keep the puck out or look like he was well-positioned.
  • And, beyond goaltending, the Pens couldn’t score tonight until the game was out of reach, that’s a factor that needs to be addressed as well. After a pretty good start with pressure and chances (with Gustavsson making some nice saves that weren’t going to be matched at the other end), the Pens wilted away big time after that long 5v3 power play.
  • Well, after four straight OT games, the Pens made a push to try and make this one another, but it turns out five goals is way too much to get out of in the last half of the third period. Who knew?

Tough game to endure, but it’s over and the Pens now head to the other capital city in the league as they go to Washington DC tomorrow night. Luckily their coach, captain, starting goalie and best defensive defensemen will all be waiting to meet them in DC. Now we’ll just have to see which ones are ready to jump back in and help.