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RECAP: It was real. It was fun. It wasn’t real fun. But the Pens still win 3-0

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A bit of a slog tonight for the Penguins, who tack on two EN goals and make their winning streak 5 games with a 3-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins give Tristan Jarry a night off and play backup Casey DeSmith instead. John Marino remains on the shelf, so it’s the same lineup as Thursday.

First period

The start is pretty wide-open with few whistles. Then, about halfway through Kris Letang takes a penalty for a very obvious hook on Taylor Hall to send the Sabres to the game’s first power play. The Penguins kill it off.

Otherwise, pretty boring period. Shots are 10-6 Pens. There was a PK involved, but it’s always bound to be a dull period when Teddy Blueger (6:06 played in first) is on the ice more than Sidney Crosby (5:31) and Evgeni Malkin (5:25). Ditto when Cody Ceci (7:17) and Marcus Pettersson (6:59) play more than Kris Letang (6:54).

Second period

Game ambles on in a very boring fashion. The Pens aren’t playing very engaged, Buffalo just isn’t good enough to make them pay or do much about it.

Evgeni Malkin draws a penalty for the Pens’ first power play and then Malkin sets up the first goal of the game by throwing a puck to Jake Guentzel in front of the net. Guentzel gets a shot away, Carter Hutton stops it, but the rebound is there and Guentzel swats it into the net. 1-0 Pens, as something finally happens.

Shots in the second are 12 a piece for both teams. Felt more like about it could have been 4 or 5 in a low-event, low danger, dull sort of game that the Pens don’t play too often.

Third period

Clock starts and again not too much of note going down. The Pens’ second line breaks through and Brian Dumoulin gets hit as a trailer for a nice shot, Hutton stops it but Buffalo takes a penalty on the play to give Pittsburgh a second power play in the game.

The Pens don’t do much with it, Bryan Rust actually has to backcheck hard and make a great defensive play on a breakaway against and then Anthony Angello takes a slashing call with :15 seconds left in the power play to give Buffalo a second PP on the evening. The Pens kill it off.

Buffalo gets perhaps their best scoring chance of the night at 4:18 left when DeSmith makes a save but leaves a rebound bouncing. Brandon Montour swings at the loose, bouncing puck but DeSmith stops him.

2:10 left and Buffalo has pulled Hutton. The Sabres get some pressure but Sidney Crosby at the end of a long shift shoots from at his goal line all the way down the ice to seal the deal at 2-0.

Then Mark Jankowski just puts the icing on the cake with another empty net goal with 15 seconds left to make it 3-0 and really put the game out of reach.

Some thoughts

  • Cody Ceci found himself 1v1 defending former NHL MVP Taylor Hall on the rush. Hall didn’t even get a shot off. As an observer, I never even felt like there was danger. It’s incredibly how steady Ceci has been and how sturdy he has been this season.
  • Make it a seven game point streak for Malkin, who also has points in the last 14 games he’s played against Buffalo. He’s gotta be licking his chops every time he goes over the board for a shift these days.
  • This was a low event, boring, dull type of game the Penguins don’t play much. And win even less. It never really felt like Buffalo had them in much trouble, they have such a toothless 5v5 offense that they just don’t get much going. But the Pens didn’t have much juice tonight either.
  • And hey, that’s going to happen. Pittsburgh is in a stretch of playing 14 games in 23 days. They’ve been on the ice for practice or a game almost every day this week. There are no fans in the building, there just wasn’t a ton of energy in the building and the Pens just kinda slept-walked their way through this one. Bound to happen from time to time, easier to stomach when they don’t give much up against and find a way to pull out the win.
  • Jake Guentzel went through a goal drought, but now you look up and he has found the back of the net in the last three games in a row. That’s how it goes sometimes for goal scorers, a cold spell but then the hot streak is never too far behind.
  • It might have been a good thing this game was sort of low energy, not much happening. The Sabres do have the NHL’s 5th best power play and the 12th best PK, out-ranking Pittsburgh by far in both categories (Pens 23rd in both special teams entering the night). Keep it at 5v5, grind out a quiet road win, that’s never a bad formula.
  • And, to be fair (to be faaaaiirrrr), the Pens’ power play scored tonight in just 13 seconds. And the Pittsburgh PK killed the two Buffalo advantages. So on this night at least, the special teams edge came through for Pittsburgh.
  • It was a shutout for Casey DeSmith. He only had to make 24 saves. Not many looked all that taxing. But he still had to be a real life NHL goalie and keep the puck out of the net, with no margin of error since the game was 0-0 or 1-0 for 59 minutes in this game. DeSmith did his part. He almost always does. Great win for him, and the Pens can definitely be confident that both of their goalies right now are giving them great performances lately.

Make it a 5 game winning streak for the Pens, who get a day off tomorrow and return home. The caliber of competition raises as Boston comes to town, but the schedule is not dropping off with games on Monday and Tuesday against the Bruins. No rest for the weary in this year’s schedule, but for the Pens tonight all is well that ends well.