Same lines and lineup for the Penguins for the third straight game.
The Pens take the lead 5:46 in, with Jake Guentzel dekeing to his backhand on the rush and flicking a shot past the red hot Jack Campbell. 1-0 Pittsburgh early.
The Pens stretch the lead to two goals before the end of the period, Mike Matheson with a good stretch pass to start the rush. Kasperi Kapanen chips it in and Jason Zucker catches up to it. Zucker makes the play by feeding Jeff Carter who has an empty net to steer the puck into. 2-0 Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh gets a golden chance to go up even further when Morgan Rielly goes off late for hooking but the inept power play continues.
Still, a 2-0 lead on the road against a goalie who gave up two total goals in the last four games before this one was a great statement and how the Pens put a stamp on this game. Shots in the first were 9-7 Pens.
Quiet second, Brian Dumoulin took a hooking penalty about halfway through that the Pens’ strong PK was able to kill off. Other than that, steady as she goes.
Shots in the second were 10-8 Maple Leafs.
Pittsburgh didn’t sit on the lead, they got 10 of the first 13 shots of the third period. Eight minutes in, Carter went to the penalty box for hooking, but it was the Pens’ PK who pretty much kept Toronto out of the offensive zone and frustrated them throughout the advantage.
Toronto got a last gasp effort with a third power play of the night with 5:13 left when Zucker went off for hooking. And just when that power play started, Zach Aston-Reese took a penalty for tripping Auston Matthews. It’s a 5v3 for 1:49 for the Leafs with 5:02 left.
Dumoulin, Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn masterfully killed off the first half of the 3v5, and then Carter and Bryan Rust were excellent at killing more time, with Tristan Jarry also helping them out with a big save on William Nylander, which actually hit the crossbar.
Right as the penalties were expiring Sidney Crosby passed on a 2-on-0 with Zucker for a chance to end it with authority, but the right pad of Campbell robbed Zucker’s shot.
With about 1:40 left, Toronto pulls Campbell for an extra skater. Doesn’t pay off as the Pens hold on for the final buzzer.
- Coach Mike Sullivan, back on the bench, steered into playing Sidney Crosby and his line against the Maple Leafs’ top line with Auston Matthews. Looked like a good move. Crosby played less than 17 minutes last game and is pretty much working into form as we go. But Sid as a prideful player is certainly going to elevate his game against another top center and did here tonight. Crosby and Guentzel were 50% Corsi players on the night, when they were off the ice Toronto had a 58% Corsi% at 5v5.
- The Pittsburgh top line carried the mail, recording 10 of the team’s 31 shots on goal. Add in the second line and that made for 10 more. The lower lines and defense didn’t have a ton going on, but the top players were coming through with puck possession and shot generation in this game.
- The puck is going in now for Guentzel with goals in four straight. His confidence and the way he is carrying himself on the ice is really high, and it ought to be too, he’s playing some great hockey.
- Might be time to re-imagine the Heinen-Rodrigues-Simon line, they all played less than 10 minutes and didn’t really have reason to get a regular sight. Haven’t done a lot, which is a shame for a player like Rodrigues who has something to offer but sort of has gotten lost in the shuffle right now with how the lines have shaken out at the moment.
- Tristan Jarry is up to a 151+ minute shutout streak, as he records his second shutout in a row. It was another great effort by his defense too: the Leafs only mustered 26 shots on goal. They only had six high danger scoring chances at 5v5 per Natural Stat Trick and just eight overall. The goalie more than did his part by stopping everything on target (with a little luck on the 3v5 that Nylander’s shot kissed the crossbar). All systems go for the Pens’ defense and the netminder in this one.
- Hey, no 5v6 goals allowed, that’s something to celebrate!
- The first goal stat from last recap makes another return here, because it’s very telling. Pittsburgh is now 7-1-0 when they score first in games this season, they’re 0-5-4 when they give up the game’s first goal. Pretty simple formula, it’s a lot easier to play from out front than dig out of a hole.
- The last seven periods the Pens have played, dating back to the third against Buffalo last Tuesday, they’ve looked great. Hungry to get to loose pucks and suppressing shots against while throwing a lot at and into the net. Makes for a great recipe.
And the Pens will look to keep cooking as they shift over to Winnipeg for a game on Monday night. A two-game winning streak is modest at this point, but a shutout to break Toronto’s five-game winning streak might be up there for one of the best overall efforts of the season to this point for Pittsburgh. They’ve been able to insulate the goalie and put him in a position to succeed and he’s playing well. The top lines are producing goals. Figure out that power play and they’ll really be cooking with gas.