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Recap: Penguins jump out to 6-0 lead and then all hell breaks loose. Still beat Devils 7-6

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A furious New Jersey third period rally makes an uninteresting game get interesting...But the Penguins seven goal output is enough for the win, score effects be damned!

New Jersey Devils v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins shuffle Sam Lafferty back in at Radim Zohorna’s expense but otherwise keep the same lineup as last game, with Tristan Jarry back between the pipes.

The Devils get some late day bad news, with P.K. Subban added to the NHL’s COVID protocol list and unavailable for this game. And Ty Smith is a somewhat unexpected late scratch as well.

First period

Pittsburgh starts a four goal first period by scoring early. Mike Matheson just kinda leans into hacking at an off-balance slap shot but gets a lot on it and it goes in 3:49 in. Nice cross-ice pass by Jared McCann on the secondary assist to flip the point of attack prior to the goal.

The Pens keep the pressure up, Sidney Crosby feeds Bryan Rust in full stride and rust zooms by Damon Severson. Nice move by Rust to cut to the far post and tuck it in. 2-0.

The Pens blow the game open with a weak goal. Brian Dumoulin skates from behind the net and just dumps the puck in. It takes a couple bounces then pops up on Scott Wedgewood. Unfortunate bounce, but when the Devils are reeling on a five game losing streak and down 2-0 on the road, this one just can’t end up in the back of the net. But it does. 3-0 Pittsburgh.

All gas, no brakes here as Pittsburgh gets a fourth goal before the period ends. McCann wins a puck back and it lays flat in the middle of the ice for Jeff Carter. That will make a volume shooter’s eyes get real big as Carter slaps it in. 4-0 and the rout is on with Carter’s first goal as a member of the Penguins.

Shots in the first are 13-5 Pittsburgh. Always a great night when you score almost as many goals (4) as the other team gets shots.

Second period

Aaron Dell replaces Wedgewood for New Jersey at the start of the second, but he fares no better. Evan Rodrigues catches up to the puck and makes a very cheeky move to fake a shot then makes a great back pass for a rushing Teddy Blueger. Blueger’s got an easy tap in for his sixth goal of the season to extend the lead to 5-0.

Pittsburgh cashes in late on their first power play of the game with the second group doing the honors. Rodrigues and Jason Zucker work a two man game a bit and Zucker feeds Rodrigues for a quick shot that finds its mark. 6-0.

Late in the period Miles Wood hits Kris Letang hard and it looked like a stick got in his face too as he was going down. Letang responds with some anger and Wood goes down after feeling a bit of a stick on him for penalty. But Letang leaves to the locker-room immediately as a sign of some concern.

Shots are 14-8 NJ in the second period as the Pens are pretty relaxed and willing to trade some chances given their big and ever-growing lead.

Third period

Letang returns after intermission, but Jarry takes an interference penalty to give the Devils at 1:17 5v3 advantage. They need little of that and Nick Merkley makes a great saucer pass across the crease to Nico Hischier and he quickly fires it in. 6-1.

Pittsburgh gets a power play but it’s the Devils who score. Yegor Sharangovich knocks away Letang’s pass attempt and races with him down the ice. Sharangovich uses his body to absorb Letang’s check attempt and snaps a puck short-side past Jarry. 6-2.

With 11:12 left, the Devils claw back to make it 6-3. Nathan Bastian makes a great redirection of a puck going way wide and pushes it just into the net.

Just as the game inches closer, the Pens’ first line puts their stamp on the game. Jake Guentzel makes a little bump pass over to Sidney Crosby and Sid goes roof daddy on it from the angle. 7-3.

The Devils don’t go away, Letang almost breaks up a pass, then almost breaks up Jack Hughes’ shot but does neither. The result is another short-side goal on Jarry. 7-4 now.

And with 6:04 left, the Devils make it a two goal game. Merkley makes another great pass across the ice, this time to Nolan Foote and Foote chips in his first career NHL goal. 7-5 game.

Mike Sullivan has finally seen enough and calls a timeout to give his team some encouragement to lock this game down already.

That works for a while but Jarry makes a couple of unforced errors. First he gloves down a puck but loses possession of it. Then he leaves the crease and again is unsuccessful and Andreas Johnsson banks in a puck from behind off Jarry’s skate and it. 7-6 game and there’s 40.3 seconds left.

But the final horn saves the Pens from any further embarrassment and they sheepishly take the win 7-6, after being up 6-0 to start the third.

Some thoughts

  • Great offensive night for lots of players for the home team, perhaps no more than the Carter line. The newest Penguin was on the ice for three goals, as was Zucker. McCann was with them for two of those goals, with the other coming on the power play. They’ve been strong from the moment they got together and now are starting to put the puck in the net.
  • These recaps have featured the confidence of Rodrigues before, and that was on display again with two primary points on impressive plays. With his skating and hands he offers a big boost to the lower lines and second power play when he’s just dripping with feeling it, and he was again tonight. If that continues it would be such a big boost to provide added depth contributions.
  • The Dumoulin goal was a fluke goal, but also some positive reinforcement for him to continue to push the issue offensively, as he has been for the last seven or eight games. The Pens become so much harder to handle when he’s not just sitting back and actively pressing on the offensive side.
  • Speaking of that, Matheson has 10 points in his 11 games. He’s finding a groove and now has 5 goals on the season. That’s a great sign to have that element of offense in the lineup and generate production from multiple levels of the attack.
  • The Devils have a bare bones roster right now and they still didn’t just lay down and go away. However, they could have Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt from injuries soon. Hopefully Subban gets cleared soon as well, as many others have from the COVID list.
  • Also, Mackenzie Blackwood is a bit more banged up than anticipated, not dressing tonight as a result of a hit he took on Sunday. He’s their best goalie and possibly could be back at some point. So the following two games aren’t necessarily going to be laughers either.
  • On the other end, Jarry had to deal with some cross-ice passes but, interestingly four goals given up were to his blocker side. Also, little did he know but the penalty that Jarry took when the game was 6-0 just 0:31 in the third ended up being the match getting struck to start what turned into a big fire for the NJ third period six goal inferno. Luckily the offense was enough, but another little lesson that despite the score, no reason to make a little silly avoidable play like Jarry did.
  • Jarry’s misplays of the puck brought it to a one goal game too. What could have been getting out with an easy night got way too interesting, but the win at the end is all that counts.
  • Pittsburgh is up to 17-3-2 at home this season so far. They’re a great team at PPG Paints. Six of the last 11 games this season are at home, and more importantly, the more they win at home, the better the odds they get home ice advantage in the first and maybe second round of the playoffs. That’s becoming a big storyline to keep an eye on as we go down the stretch.

Well, you don’t expect a 6-0 game to turn into a 7-6 win, but since it looks like Letang is no worse for wear the Pens can keep it moving by getting the two points and calling it a night. Two more with the Devils at home on Thursday and Saturday. Maybe a lesson learned about a full 60 minute effort gets reinforced along the way. It’s human nature to have some score effects, but a team can’t let up and often get away with it.

Unless you have a six goal lead in the first place, I suppose.