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Pens/Sens Recap: Penguins jump out to early lead, hold on for dear life to defeat Ottawa 6-4

The pesky Senators didn’t make it easy, but it was still Pittsburgh who wins a wild 6-4 hockey game.

Ottawa Senators v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins get Danton Heinen into replace Jason Zucker up front in the same second line left wing role, and Casey DeSmith is also back as a backup.

First period

The first period was one of the strangest, yet most entertaining in the Penguins’ season. They gave up 22 shots on goal, but Tristan Jarry stopped all but one of them.

Pittsburgh scored four goals, but only three counted due to an off-sides challenge. They chased the Senators’ starting goalie Anton Forsberg. There were penalties, a rare fight, pretty much the whole ball of wax.

The unexpected and unpredictable action started 4:28 into the game when the player who famously never scores a goal, scored a goal. It was Dominik Simon for his second goal of the season. Simon skated the puck up the left side until he ran out of room, then fired a shot. Nothing too incredible except the result when Forsberg couldn’t stop it. 1-0 Pens.

After that, Brian Boyle leveled a Senator with a big, hit. He had to answer with a fight against Austin Watson, that was more of a hugging match, but so it goes.

Ottawa would take the game over, at one point shots were 15-4 in their favor. They finally got the goal that seemed inevitable catching the Pens in a line change, Nick Holden made a long pass up for the dangerous Drake Batherson. Batherson’s first shot was stopped by Jarry but a rebound was out for Batherson to chip into the net while almost wearing Chad Ruhwedel as a cap. 1-1 game.

The Pens quickly got the lead back about a minute later with Evgeni Malkin striking. Sneaky little move by Geno to pull the puck back away from the goalie while in tight and then use the extra room to go upstairs. 2-1 Pens.

Batherson went to the penalty box and Malkin scores again to make it 3-1 when Forsberg knocks the centering pass in the net! Ottawa has seen enough of Forsberg and pull him, but they also challenge the goal for being off-sides, which it turns out the Pens were off going over the blue line. Goal erased, but goalie change stays in effect after a brutal start for Forsberg who allowed three goals (a few of them weak) on eight shots, even though it got amended to 2 GA on 7 shots.

Pittsburgh didn’t score on the power play, but a bit later they got another goal to make it 3-1 for real this time. Brock McGinn put a shot on that new goalie (and former Penguin draft pick) Filip Gustavsson stopped, but the rebound is there for Mike Matheson to jump on. New goalie, same poor result for Ottawa. 3-1.

And thus ended a wild opening frame that saw just about anything and everything you could think of.

Second period

The second period was more even for the Penguins, who tilted the ice and kept asserting dominance on the scoreboard.

The next goal took a while, but the power play finally struck for Pittsburgh with Artem Zub in the box for his second interference call of the night. On a rush Sidney Crosby entered the zone, passed to the wall for Bryan Rust and Rust gave it back to Crosby as he rushed the net. A quick move to the backhand and the captain kissed the post as he deposited his seventh goal of the season to extend the lead to 4-1.

Before the period ends, the Pens get one more on the board. It’s Matheson striking again for his second of the night and fifth on the year when he scores with 1:19 left. Nice job by Matheson to get the zone exit and Jeff Carter lays it back for the defender who fires a hard, high shot that Gustavsson can’t keep out of the net. 5-1.

The period ends with a 14-7 Pittsburgh shot edge in the second, as they settle in and pull away big time.

Third period

Early in the third, the Sens show they’re not checked out. Zach Sanford fires a long range high shot that Jarry fights off but leaves a rebound for Tim Stutzle to fire short-side and into the net. 5-2 game with 18:15 left.

Then, Ottawa strikes again. They’ve turned up the pressure and Jarry again is kicking out rebounds on a sequence that sees Batherson make a pass through the middle that Josh Norris is able to direct into the net with his skate. 5-3 with still over 16 minutes left.

Pittsburgh gets their fourth power play of the game, but they give up a penalty shot when Evan Rodrigues has to take down Alex Formenton from behind. Jarry stones Formenton on his free shot.

But the Sens keep going and climb a little closer to make it 5-4. Norris scores again, and again right in front, this time with his stick.

With about 1:40 Ottawa pulls the goalie. It doesn’t work as Rust gets the puck and finds Jake Guentzel who gains the red line and then shoots right down the middle. 6-4 to seal the deal.

John Marino and Brady Tkachuk jockey back and forth in the closing seconds and tempers boil over with a fight. Not really sure what Marino is thinking but chalk it up to some youthful indiscretion.

Some thoughts

  • Malkin scored a goal, and it easily, easily could have been a much bigger night. Geno had the disallowed goal in the first that really had no course on the play, tough break there. Then in the second Malkin hit the cross-bar clean on a slapshot that had the goalie totally beaten. Nice signs, and the latter two near-non-goals were both on the power play, which is of course very encouraging to see.
  • The Pens now improve to 20-1-1 this season when leading after two periods. Pretty easy way to pad that stat tonight taking a four goal lead into the third, even if Ottawa really did have a chance to take the game to overtime, against
  • This was the 102nd game where Malkin and Crosby have scored a goal in the same game. As you would expect, that’s a pretty solid indicator for the team (90-9-3 record).
  • Mike Matheson showed out with a three point night. This build-up has been evident and obvious for a while, as his play has been looking increasingly solid — especially with the puck. Matheson was noticeably jumping up in the play and controlling the puck, he’s playing very aggressively right now and being rewarded. Surely his confidence with his performances of late must be very high, which will only lead to great things.
  • The goaltending difference was the true determining factor of this game. Jarry was sterling, especially early when Ottawa was throwing a lot at him. Even when the Sens got back in, it was more a result of their pressure and making plays (and having 43 shots on the night) more than poor goaltending. On the other side, Ottawa saw their goalies literally tipping the puck in their own net and looking generally allergic to making saves.
  • With an assist tonight, Kris Letang has now established a career-high nine game point streak. And at 2G+12A, he’s been closer to two points per than just one over the stretch.
  • With six goals, there’s a lot to go around, but the Pens showed some balance with 12 of their 18 skaters who dressed getting on the scoreboard on the night with a goal and/or assist. Even the goaltender Jarry notched his third assist of the season on the ENG.
  • One player not on the board was Evan Rodrigues, who only played 10:56 and now is on a season-long six game point-less streak. Little bump in the road or something more worrisome?
  • This game was 6-4, last game between these games was a 6-3 Ottawa win. I dunno, bet the over when these two teams meet again in a couple weeks?
  • And it will be interesting to see how much these teams remember their chippiness from this game. Formenton and Letang got tangled up in the third. There were two fights, and there are almost never fights. Josh Norris got bloodied behind the play when Brian Dumoulin jumped on him. Bryan Rust was grabbing and yanking at the rookie Stutzle behind the play. A lot of modern NHL games aren’t nasty, but both teams had their ire up and were competing and showed a lot of general dislike for one another as tempers ran hot.
  • 6-4 game, lots of physicality, this was a good “70s night” theme for the Pens, huh? This was like an old timey game.

And it’s also a Pens win. Could have been easier, but nothing comes easy in the NHL. By virtue of Washington’s regulation loss and Pittsburgh’s win, the Pens move into third place in the Metro. And now they have a chance to grow on that as they head out for a game in Columbus tomorrow night.