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Recap: Radim Zohorna the latest in long line of Penguin deep depth heroes. Pittsburgh downs Rangers, 5-2

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The Pens break their two game winning streak and get two point nights from Kris Letang, Jason Zucker, Evan Rodrigues, and Radim Zohorna...Yeah, Radim Zohorna.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins use the same lines and lineup as last game, including giving Tristan Jarry a chance at redemption after his rough start on Tuesday.

First period

The Pens come out the gates hot. They have bounce in their step, are attentive defensively as if they’ve gone through some video sessions and stern coaching since last game (because, well...). Shots in the first are 13-5, and Pittsburgh gets the only goal of the period to boot.

Radim Zohorna receives a long stretch pass from Marcus Pettersson and puts the Rangers defense on his hip. A nice power move to cut to the net and the lanky 6’6 forward has the arm span to tuck it in past the stretch of Ilya Shesterkin to make it 1-0.

Both teams get a power play in the period, but neither score. This is also significant for the Pens, considering the Rangers scored three power play goals on Tuesday, including two in the first period of the last meeting.

Second period

The Pens ability to keep the NYR power play quiet ends early in the second. Jake Guentzel gets the gate for hooking just 17 seconds in and the Rangers capitalize. Kaapo Kakko passes from down low to the slot and Colin Blackwell unloads a quick shot by Jarry and a 1-1 game.

But it isn’t for long. The Pens’ top line has a great shift and owns the offensive zone and Sidney Crosby leaves the puck for a crossing Kris Letang, in what almost looks like a power play, but is 5v5. Letang looks like he’s just throwing the puck to the net but it hits a Ranger stick and goes five hole on Shesterkin and the Pens regain the lead just 3:23 into the period.

The Rangers get another power play but the Pens kill this one off. Then Pittsburgh gets a chance but Sidney Crosby is off the ice for most of this period with an apparent skate issue getting fixed. So Pittsburgh starts their second PP group, and they calmly get a goal. Zohorna wins the o-zone draw then makes a nice pass from behind the net for Evan Rodrigues to quickly snap in and it’s 3-1.

Sam Lafferty and Brendan Smith get their ires up about each other so they drop gloves in a rare but spirited fight.

New York gets a breakaway but Chris Kreider gets jammed up. Refs award a penalty shot and Jarry does well to hold his ground and make a save.

Shots in the second period are 10-6 NYR, but the Pens are able to pull away a little on the scoreboard.

Third period

The teams exchange penalties, Crosby nullifies a Pens’ power play by bumping Shesterkin after the Ranger goalie bumped him but nothing further came of it.

Pittsburgh lengthens the lead to 4-1 later. Cody Ceci makes a long outlet pass for Evan Rodrigues and Rodrigues feeds Jason Zucker. Shesterkin is swimming all over the net and while he’s trying to move laterally he is not in great shape or very square and Zucker’s shot slips in.

Kevin Rooney cuts the score to 4-2 when he nearly accidentally cuts the back of Jarry’s leg on the follow through leaping over the prone Pens goalie. Luckily Jarry wasn’t sliced as the Rangers stay on the fringes of the game with just over 5 minutes left.

The Pens put it away with 1:31 left. Zach Aston-Reese with a nifty stick lift of a Ranger player to steal the puck and Mark Jankowski hits up the empty net to seal the deal at a 5-2 score.

Some thoughts

  • Bryan Rust got shaken up when screening the NYR net and a shot hit him in the hand/wrist area. Looked scary as he left the ice in pain and got checked out on the bench missing a small amount of time, but luckily he would soon return as a disastrous outcome was seemingly avoided.
  • Radim Zohorna is a more intriguing player at the NHL level than anticipated. Not sure what his long term outlook may or may not be, but he’s not got four points (2G+2A) in four games, in a limited role. For a big guy, Zohorna is fairly nimble skating and using his edges, as seen in the goal tonight. And his hands on the finish shows a bit of coordination as well. It’s kind of ironic that he is only playing right now because Anthony Angello is hurt (as well as a host of forwards) but Zohorna is slotting in nicely right now as a fill in that is pitching in, unlike pretty much all of the other bottom-six wingers tonight that aren’t named Zach Aston-Reese.
  • Speaking of players playing right and performing really well, Evan Rodrigues also notched a goal and an assist on the evening and now has five points in his last eight games. He has been very noticeable for the right reasons and making a lot of plays with the puck when he has space, and he found a lot again tonight.
  • As a result, nice to see Jason Zucker come to life too. A goal and an assist for him in now his fifth game back from his long injury back. Zucker only had one point (a goal) in the first four back. The Pens need him up and running and creating offense and he found a way here.
  • Tristan Jarry is livin’ right. He came out of the net and misplayed the puck and the Rangers missed a wide open net. Not long after Jarry again flubbed a clear attempt and NYR got a great scoring chance but couldn’t put it home. Hopefully some short term yips that get cleared out of his system because that luck is not going to last with the goalie well out of the net.
  • Otherwise, in the net, Jarry was pretty good. He needed this one, his first nice game since coming back from a brief injury. He only saw 24 shots though, it was an excellent night for the Pens to buckle down and not give the Blueshirts a ton of space to walk down Broadway like they did on Tuesday night with chances a-plenty.
  • Bit of a different schedule this year, but the NHL has played division-heavy schedules before. Still, this is the first time in a season where the Penguins have beaten the Rangers six times in one regular season, to take a 6-2-0 season series record out of it. Nice record to set.
  • For a guy who got a shout out from the GM yesterday about stepping in and playing well, Frederick Gaudreau continues to do the little things right to chip in and be a valuable depth center. 12 faceoffs, 11 wins tonight and he played 16 minutes with a few extra shifts while Crosby was out for a big chunk of the second period getting his skate worked on.
  • As Josh Yohe from The Athletic pointed out on twitter, in-game skate issues have been dogging Crosby frequently enough to be memorable with him having to leave the bench to get it fixed. (Doubly noticeable at Madison Square Garden where to leave the ice you can’t just sneak down a hallway attached to the bench but have to go out the rink behind the goalie. Hopefully they can mitigate this in the future, especially with playoffs a month away!

Great to see the Pens break their two game losing streak, making them one of a few team in the league this year to not yet suffer a 3+ game losing streak. Two more games to go until a little break, now the Pens move on quickly to play New Jersey tonight (who just played and won a game @Buffalo themselves this evening).