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Recap: Call it a comeback! Pens roar back to beat Vegas 5-3

After going down in a 3-0 hole, the Penguins complete their long road trip by scoring five straight goals to defeat the Golden Knights 5-3

Pittsburgh Penguins v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Pregame

Some happy returns for Pittsburgh with Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker back in the lineup and to their customary top-six roles.

First period

Not a great start for the Penguins, Zucker gets the game’s first chance on a 2-on-1 but Robin Lehner makes a glove save on him.

Vegas turns around and scores on their first shot of the game, when Chandler Stephenson gets a pass and rushes down the left side. Stephenson shoots quickly and beats Tristan Jarry through the five hole. 1-0 Golden Knights just 3:43 in.

The Pens appear to catch a break when Vegas is whistled for too many men. It’s a disaster of a power play though, Kris Letang makes multiple passes that aren’t there, one gets turned over and Letang has to hook the Vegas player to prevent a chance, sending Letang to the box himself. Pittsburgh kills it off.

After Pittsburgh iced the puck twice, Evgeni Malkin lost a d-zone draw and Vegas struck again to make it 2-0. Mark Stone’s shot from distance got deflected in front and slid under Jarry’s leg pad.

Pittsburgh stabilizes a bit with a couple good shifts from the Crosby line but it gets negated when Brian Boyle lifts the stick of a Golden Knight and gets called for hooking for some reason. Vegas to a second power play. This time they convert with Nic Roy finishing from right in front for a tap in with Jarry losing his net. 3-0 and full on ugly.

Period comes to a close and the Pens get saved by the buzzer. Shots are 8-6 Pittsburgh, but somehow three of those shots end up in the net. Terrible start for Pittsburgh, who allows three first period goals against for the first time all season.

Second period

After getting to regroup during intermission (and likely hearing about it from the coach) the Pens do come out better in the second. Great shift by the Malkin line is followed up by Evan Rodrigues driving to the net and drawing Pittsburgh’s second power play of the game. No dice.

The Pens keep at it and the fourth line + Mike Matheson draw a penalty for a third Pens power play. The second group gets it. Zucker drives the puck to the net and starts hackin’ and whackin’. Jeff Carter crashes in too and eventually Zucker gets the puck in the net. 3-1.

Shots in the second are 11-0 Pens, complete domination and they get another goal. Matheson makes a great pass up the ice to Boyle (!!!) who is up on the play. Lehner stops Boyle’s shot but the rebound is sitting on a platter for Teddy Blueger to swoop in and deposit in the net. Two goals 49 seconds apart to give Pittsburgh a lot of life and momentum.

It takes until 8:30 left in the period for Vegas to get a shot on goal. Really, really strong middle frame for the visitors. The Pens out-shoot the Golden Knights 18-6. The only downside is they can’t climb totally out of the hole they threw themselves in during the first period, since after 40 it’s 3-2 for Vegas.

Third period

Just 28 seconds in, the Pens tie it. After being on the wrong end of a d-zone faceoff leading to a goal against, the Malkin line finds redemption with an o-zone draw turning into a goal. Malkin wins it clean, back to Kasperi Kapanen who snaps it on net. The puck hits Zucker’s stick and Lehner can’t track it at all. 3-3 game.

Building off that, less than two minutes later the Pens grab the lead for the first time. It’s Jake Guentzel’s 20th of the season as he slides around the net and tucks a forehand wraparound shot home. 4-3 Pens but still with 17:48 remaining on the clock.

Vegas wakes up a bit and gets some pressure finally, but Jarry is able to steady his game.

With about 1:45, VGK pulls Lehner for an extra attacker. Doesn’t work, Crosby hits the empty netter. 5-3 Pens.

Some thoughts

  • Tonight was the first time the Pens had their full compliment of skill forwards all together (Malkin, Rust, Guentzel, Crosby) and the result was that Evan Rodrigues (he of six PPG this season) was pushed off the top group in favor of the other four. Unfortunate.
  • First time Zucker has hit the back of the net since November 22nd in his return game. Probably a sneaky good candidate to have a hot second half of the season if healthy and can start finishing.
  • Jarry’s night was a weird one. He’s been beaten a few times this year by quick wristers through the five hole, and was again. A deflection is always tough for a goalie, Jarry was in position but unable to stop a puck from going under his pad, and then he just kinda lost his net. Not a miserable night, but not as sharp as we’ve become accustomed to expect.
  • Jarry also misplayed the puck behind the net in the second period, almost gifting a goal away. There’s been a lot of little signs like that in his past few games that his play hasn’t been as lights out and flawless as it was earlier. Not necessarily a disturbing trend, anyone’s play will fluctuate a bit, but it is perhaps noticeable he’s fighting it right now.
  • Most of the season Jarry has been picking up the Pens. The opposite had to happen tonight. Sometimes it happens.
  • In terms of moving the puck, thought this was one of Matheson’s best and more standout games in a long time. That pass up the ice to Boyle was a thing of beauty. He had other nice dishes too, including one to Crosby that resulted in a good shot.
  • Vegas was 16-0-0 coming into this game when leading after two periods. This also marks only the second game in the young franchise history when they had a three goal lead in a game and ended up losing it.
  • 4-2-0 road trip for the Pens, not bad at all especially considering Pittsburgh’s struggles out west in recent years. Some periods and full on games weren’t always the prettiest, but the end results were positive.

The Pens finally get to head back east and have a few days to regroup for a home game on Thursday against Ottawa.