The Penguins are using their usual lineup as up late, with no surprises in the lines.
Pretty dull opening period for the visiting team. Dominik Simon takes a slashing penalty 6:02 into the game, but the team kills it off without much drama against New Jersey’s unimpressive 12.5% power play (three way tied for last place in the league).
About as soon as Simon is out of the box, Sidney Crosby is headed into it when he trips a Devil. Turns out to spurn on the first goal, but for Pittsburgh when Dougie Hamilton leaves his feet for some reason and Teddy Blueger breaks up a pass and skates it to a breakaway. There’s the rare forehand five-hole finish and the Pens are up 1-0.
We officially have our first shorthanded goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/jzzz5snacg— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 20, 2021
Shots in the period end up 6-4 NJ. Blueger has three of Pittsburgh’s shots. 5v5 shots are almost non-existent. Not the most fun period ever, but the Pens are up, at least.
Business picks up early on as Danton Heinen gets on the board 1:03 in. Marcus Pettersson makes a nice pass across the ice and then Heinen makes an even nicer shot to pick the far corner and snipe it in. 2-0 Pens.
POST AND IN! WHAT A BEAUT. pic.twitter.com/eLjwY4LIjB— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 20, 2021
Just when it looks like they may be losing touch with the game, New Jersey gets their first goal of the game. Janne Kuokkanen makes a beautiful deflection of a Ty Smith point shot to answer the goal. 2-1 Pens still lead.
After seven+ minutes go off the clock in a period in the NHL and there is a non-icing or goal stoppage of play, there is a TV timeout in the NHL. Very standard. The goalies skate to their bench for some talk with the coaches/teammates and a drink. In the second period, they have to skate across the red line to get to their bench on the long change.
This time, for whatever reason, Tristan Jarry uses the butt end of his stick to get a piece of a Devil. And not just any Devil, but Mason Geertsen, a former Edmonton Oil King (WHL) junior teammate. Geertsen gives it back to Jarry a bit, perhaps what the goalie wanted all along, but a referee saw the provocation. Jarry gets a double minor, Geertsen only sits for two minutes to give NJ a power play.
Hardly ever see anything like that happen at the NHL level. Anyways, the PK streak holds just the same, though.
Pittsburgh gets the next power play after some confusion when it looked like two players sticks hit each other in the face at the same time but only Michael McLeod of the Devils ends up in the box. The power play doesn’t last long, when NJ takes the puck the other way and Kris Letang resorts to sliding and tripping a guy to avoid a potential goal against, but serves a penalty for it.
All the power plays clear and another period ends. Shots this period are 9-6 Pens. Just 13-12 PIT overall in the game, quite the departure from the usual (the Pens had 21 SOG in the first period alone on Friday night! That feels like long ago at this point)
Heinen replaces Kasperi Kapanen to play with Sidney Crosby-Evan Rodrigues to start the third. Brock McGinn bumps up to the Jeff Carter-Jason Zucker line and Kapanen slots in with Blueger-Zach Aston-Reese, where he had played somewhat recently weeks back in other alignments.
Zucker and Jonas Siegenthaler head to the box on matching roughing minors to give some 4v4 time, nothing comes of it.
With 10:29 left, the Pens’ fourth line and lower pair kicks in a goal. Chad Ruhwedel does a nice job of juuust barely holding the line and keeping the team onsides and Mike Matheson unloads a half slapper that goalie Jon Gillies can’t see due to Sam Lafferty’s nice screen. 3-1 Pittsburgh.
A perfect shot + a perfect screen = pic.twitter.com/zcabB2Uz0O— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 20, 2021
Matheson’s next shift, he dumps Andreas Johnsson into the boards with a cross-check and the PK streak is over. Dougie Hamilton shoots from distance that Nathan Bastian tips from in front of the net. 3-2 game.
With 2ish minutes left, the Devils pull their goalie, but they run out of time before they can get an equalizer as Tristan Jarry makes a breakaway stop on Johnsson with just a few seconds left to seal the deal.
- It was pretty surprising that Blueger’s goal was only the first that the Pittsburgh PK has scored this season. For as good as they have been, it’s strange they haven’t gotten one prior to this, but the opening goal was a good time for it.
- The franchise record PK streak ends after 39 straight successful kills and 16 games and on the fifth NJ power play of the night. The Pens ended up playing with fire too much, and they weren’t great at clearing the puck, and it ended up burning them.
- Career-high for Blueger with 7 SOG and he’s now up to six points in his last six games against the Devils.
- Perhaps somewhat quietly, the Pens improve their road record to an impressive 9-3-3 on the season.
- Not the prettiest game, and down Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel (this sometimes feels forgotten!) it took some deep dives for contributions, but they came through. A fourth line goal, a goal while shorthanded. Sometimes on the road the team has to dig deep, and that happened tonight. Nice recipe for success.
- The Pens needed that line change, not much was going on. Evan Rodrigues, who has been shooting like crazy this season, didn’t have a shot in the first two periods, and only recorded 1 SOG coming in the third. Crosby had no shots on goal. Kapanen didn’t have any shots on goal, though he did hit the cross-bar in the third period.
But, the Pens found a way to get a win on the road when they probably had about a C or C+ game going. They could get away with it against a weary and worn down Devils team that was missing a lot of pieces and playing their fourth game in six days and on a back-to-back. But they don’t ask how in the standings, just how many. And right now, the answer is seven wins in a row for Pittsburgh.
New Jersey will look to bounce back as these teams meet again on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.