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Recap: Pens comeback falls short in shootout, Chicago wins 3-2

Jeff Carter scores two third period goals to send the game to extra time, but Pittsburgh falls in a shootout to Marc-Andre Fleury and the Blackhawks

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins have a pretty familiar looking lineup from recent times, no major changes from last game.

First period

Pittsburgh gets the game’s first power play when Connor Murphy gets a penalty for clearing the puck over the glass (pretty generous call for the Pens, IMO, looked like it went off Drew O’Connor, but hey, take it where you get it) but the power play woes continue. The Pens do that thing when their power play is bad and too many players are stationary for too long and they do very little with it as they mostly look disengaged and generate almost nothing (no shots on goal, no scoring chances, just one shot attempt that misses the net wide).

Later, on the other hand, the Blackhawks get two power play opportunities and look a lot more proficient in them with some crisp passes and nice skilled plays. One such play sends a cross-ice pass to Alex Debrincat who has a wide open net to shoot at. But he pulls the shot and hits the post. Tristan Jarry is tested several times and makes 7 saves on 7 Chicago power play shots in the first period, across two separate minor penalties.

Overall shots are 14-10 CHI, but 10-7 Pens at 5v5. Pittsburgh was pretty good at 5v5, winning the xGF battle 0.76 to 0.39 per Natural Stat Trick. However on the power play it was 0.63 xGF for CHI to 0.00 for the Pens, a big kudos to Jarry (and Debrincat not finishing) keeps the game scoreless after one period.

Second period

Early in the second, Kris Letang absorbs a heavy hit behind the net from Mike Hardman. Letang is in pain on the bench, and it seems to throw off the Pens’ d-pair usage as the lower lines get a little more work early on and it leads to Chicago scoring the first goal. Jonathan Toews wins an offensive zone draw against Jeff Carter after Juuso Riikola can’t help win the puck back, and it eventually gets back low to Toews who circles the net and makes a pass right through the crease. Mark Friedman can’t do anything about it but Jujhar Khaira can as he quickly taps it into the net. 1-0 Blackhawks.

The Pens get a second power play after a great shift from the fourth line. Again, not much going on.

Chicago scores the second goal of the game after a push gets the Pens players trapped for almost two minutes and it’s Seth Jones notching his first goal as a Blackhawk with a nice shot that goes upper corner on Jarry. 2-0 CHI.

Shots in the second period are 12-11 CHI, and it’s 26-22 Blackhawks overall on the shot board through 40 minutes. Unlike a pretty strong first period for the Pens, the second became a struggle for Pittsburgh as Chicago made a few plays and gained in confidence and carried more of the play.

Third period

The Pens get a third crack at the power play early on when Hardman goes off for high-sticking, but again can’t convert. Kasperi Kapanen gets a good look from the left side but his shot whistles past Marc-Andre Fleury only to hit the post and stay out.

At even a few minutes later, the Pens finally get one in the net. Jake Guentzel slings the puck from afar just to kinda get it towards the net. Works perfectly as Jeff Carter is able to get a redirect from right in front of Fleury. That cuts the lead to 2-1 with still 14:26 left to work.

Pens are turning it on, with 11 of the first 13 shots in the period. Evan Rodrigues almost scores in a scrum on Fleury but the refs rule the whistle blew before the puck was jammed over the goal line.

The game opens up and Jarry has to make a breakaway save on Hardman. One great save at one end so often in hockey means a chance at the other end just seems to always happen soon after...And it does, with Carter rocketing down the right and throws a puck to the net. Fleury jams the net off the moorings as the puck goes in. A review shows it would have been a good goal anyways, so the goal is awarded for Carter’s second tally of the evening. 2-2 game with 4:17 left.

The Pens’ top line is buzzing and gunning to end it in regulation. Guentzel tips a Letang point shot but it hits the post. Rust also gets a chance at the buzzer off a P.O Joseph shot that Fleury denies.

Dominant third period with the Pens outshooting the ‘Hawks 20-5. Chicago went into a shell and it caught up with them, they’re pretty lucky to escape regulation with the score tied.

Overtime

Lots of back and forth action, Chicago gets a clean 2-on-0 with Patrick Kane and Debrincat (the two players who ended the last OT game for Chicago) but Jarry holds his ground on Kane’s shot with an excellent save.

Tempers flare when Fleury traps the puck, wants to move it but Carter hacks his glove. That creates a bit of a melee. Carter and Fleury both pick up minor penalties with 1:02 left for slashing and action stays at 3v3.

At the OT buzzer, Jones springs Kane for a breakaway, his last ditch shot goes wide. Whew.

Shootout

Toews goes first, his backhand deke slides through Jarry’s five hole. Goal.

Guentzel goes first for the Pens, he shoots from out deep, Fleury stops him.

Kane up next, he puts on the breaks and shoots for Jarry’s glove, but is stopped.

Letang goes for the Pens, he tries to shoot five hole from a distance, Fleury clamps down.

Debrincat gets the chance to win it, he shoots high and scores.

Some thoughts

  • Bryan Rust got hurt in the first period, the cameras caught him in discomfort as the trainers attended to his ribs/torso type area. Rust did not initially return for the start of second period but he was able to return early into the second.
  • Not sure why Todd Reirden started Riikola-Friedman in the d-zone on Chicago’s first goal (perhaps giving Letang a minute to get his faculties back), but misplays by both were major reasons why the puck ended up in their net seconds later. Friedman also took an offensive zone minor penalty in the first. If Chad Ruhwedel gets out of protocol in time to play next game, it’s easy to guess who he would be going in for.
  • Weird night for Reirden in general. This was the first game where Mike Sullivan’s absence could be felt. For instance, as Bob Grove pointed out, Evan Rodrigues and the second line struggled at times with way too many minute+ shifts (including getting caught and worn out on the Jones goal). As perhaps a result of that, Jake Guentzel only had 7:42 5v5 icetime through two periods (fourth liner Danton Heinen had 7:26!). Quiet night for Guentzel, but with limited opportunities he wasn’t put in a very advantageous position by the coaches either.
  • Reirden also shuffled three left wings in the third period (wonder how much of that was Sullivan directed via intermission teleconferencing). Heinen moved up with Rodrigues-Kapanen, Jason Zucker was with Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn and Zach Aston-Reese dropped down with Brian Boyle and Drew O’Connor. Liked that idea to change up something to try and spark the team, especially to get a scoring threat on that important Blueger line. Aston-Reese just hasn’t created anything.
  • Tough for the Pens to not get two points out of this, but then again they were also down 2-0 after 40 and looking lifeless, so in a different manner of perspective it was a positive to get a result out of this.
  • Good to see Carter and the first line lead the charge. They were buzzing late after a very quiet start. The Pens can’t rely on the Heinen’s and McGinn’s and O’Connor’s to produce every game, they need those top players to put up points, and Guentzel and Carter came through.

Not a perfect game, but one point for a depleted team on the road is better than no points. The Pens go back home to meet Florida, who will be smarting and looking to bounce back from losing 7-3 to NJ tonight.