The Penguins use the same skaters as last night (Bryan Rust remains out) but switch up goalies to get a rare appearance from Casey DeSmith.
A scoreless first period with only a few key players standing out. Jake Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues combined for ten of the Penguins’ 14 SOG in the first, they were really cooking and came close to scoring a few times on Jake Allen.
Dominik Simon’s stick got high in the offensive zone and drew blood on Brendan Gallagher, but the Pittsburgh PK pretty much dominated the Montreal power play and didn’t allow anything for four minutes even at DeSmith.
Kasperi Kapanen made a great backchecking play (which might be the first time that sentence has been written) but then took an awkward spill into the boards at the other end of the ice 10 seconds later. Luckily he was no worse for wear.
Shots were 14-9 Pittsburgh in the first, but no one scored.
Three minutes in when Mattias Norlander for the Habs goes to the box. The Pens actually get a few decent chances with Jeff Carter and Jason Zucker nearly scoring, but nearly doesn’t count.
The game gets a little chippy with Josh Anderson running a guy from behind, but then Kris Letang is whistled for tripping in a move he really doesn’t like and lets the ref know it. He’s fortunate to not have gotten an unsportsmanlike, being a vet has its pluses.
Pittsburgh kills off the Letang penalty, again without much issue and the game moves on.
Jonathan Drouin finally opens up the scoring with 4:26 remaining in the second to give Montreal the lead. There was a lot of pressure from the Pens in the build up to this play, but they got a little sloppy and pulled out of position when Letang could not handle a pass back to the point, and the puck flipped a fortunate way for Drouin to pounce on. Cheeky little finish there.
Shots are 17-13 Pens in the middle frame, and 31-21 overall after 40 minutes. It’s unfortunate/unlucky/frustrating/a shame (choose your own synonym) that Pittsburgh still has a zero on the board. Allen has been in the zone to this point. And even when Allen has been pierced, the puck hasn’t gone in.
The Pens get a second power play of the evening 2:20 into the third, and just 13 seconds later — the incredible happens. A real life Pittsburgh Penguin power play goal. Sidney Crosby pushes a pass back for Rodrigues and he converts for his eighth goal of the season. It’s a 1-1 game.
Evan Rodrigues goes bar down on the power play pic.twitter.com/vAdhLWIoSj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 28, 2021
But it isn’t a 1-1 game for long. Montreal gets the lead back 32 seconds later when Christian Dvorak chips in a Sami Niku centering pass and MTL is back up, this time by the score of 2-1. The Pens still have 16:55 to work with though.
The Pens get a glorious chance a few minutes later, and it’s the top line again. Crosby rockets a shot that Allen stops but leaves a rebound on the doorstep for Rodrigues. Rodrigues gets a lot on it, but Allen just won’t allow the goal.
Shortly thereafter, on a somewhat similar chance at the other end where DeSmith leaves a rebound for a loose puck in front of the net. But this time the Canadien player, Artturi Lehkonen, chops the puck past the goalie. 3-1 MTL.
It gets down to desperation time and the Pens pull DeSmith for an extra attacker. It’s time to get crazy.
—First, the Pens draw it to 3-2 with Jeff Carter scoring with 2:37 left.
—Then, Montreal appeared to put the game away with 1:41, Josh Anderson hits the empty net to stretch the lead back to two goals at 4-2.
—But goonies never say die, and neither does Sidney Crosby. The Pens’ captain finds a way to score with 1:10 left, again at 6v5 with the goalie pulled. 4-3 game with 1:10 left.
—It would be the closest Pittsburgh would get, as Anderson tacked on another ENG with 48 seconds left. 5-3 MTL
—Then Tyler Toffoli put another one in just to make it look ugly for the 6-3 final.
Games will always get crazy when a team down 2+ gets that first 6v5 goal like Carter did. Virtually guarantees multiple more goals are coming up. Suddenly what was cruising to a 3-1 final ends up being a 6-3 final.
- In the middle of the second period, Scott Melanby resigned his position as assistant GM for the Canadiens. So, that’s how things are going over there right now with a ton of turmoil in Montreal.
- 18 penalty kills in a row for Pittsburgh, who are really functioning as a cohesive group right now. That doesn’t seem like a fluke, they’ve been excellent at being aggressive in timely moments and keeping almost everything to the perimeter. When you think Pittsburgh Penguins, you shouldn’t really traditionally think “great defense and PK”, but that’s become a huge strength of this club right now.
- The Pens lost this game, and they had the second best goaltender in the game. That’s been a growing problem as of late when DeSmith is in the game. On this night, that really says more about Jake Allen being off-the-charts awesome, DeSmith didn’t have much of a chance on a few of the goals against. But Allen didn’t have much of a chance and found a way to make a great save. DeSmith isn’t offering that at the moment.
- With Sidney Crosby’s faceoff percentage down this season, interesting to see Rodrigues take some faceoffs when the puck is on the strong side for the right-handed Rodrigues. That would never, ever happen in previous years. Not saying anything further than the statement of fact that for whatever reason, situationally Sidney Crosby (one of the most used and best faceoff takers in the NHL in the past) has been willingly subbed out in instances like this and with Carter on the power play.
- That said, Crosby’s game tonight was probably his best of the season. He had three points (1G+2A), a season-high. He had 5 SOG, a season-high. He played 21:44, a season-high. It’s probably more him working into form and game shape rather than any evidence of an injury, but we shall see.
- The signs were positive from Sid, and they may have had no choice to be, because Guentzel and Rodrigues are the best Penguin skaters right now. Possibly by a large distance at this moment. The two look dangerous every time they get out there. Rodrigues has made magic at all three forward positions this season. And he’s been in basically every line/role and with about all possible linemates except the Blueger-checking line. And all he’s done is been great and generate a ton, pretty much every game.
- Rodrigues has 12 SOG tonight. 12! Guentzel wasn’t far behind with nine. That top line hasn’t missed a beat with the sudden and unexpected injury to Rust in warmups last night. In fact, it’s gotten better.
- Kapanen is digging and visible all over the ice now too. Two assists tonight for him, coming on the late goals, and nice to see him able to produce with the star players.
Nothing good can last forever, and try as the Pens did with 50 shots on Jake Allen, you just kinda got the sense this wasn’t going to be their night. That’s hockey sometimes. Pretty quick turnaround for Pittsburgh, who fly out and play in Calgary on Monday night. That’s pretty soon for the start of a long trip.