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Pens/Jackets Recap: Hats off for Sid! Crosby’s hat trick leads Pens to 5-2 win

Sidney Crosby scores thrice and despite shaky goaltending from Casey DeSmith, the Penguins comeback to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

Zach Aston-Reese is back in the lineup in favor of resting the 37-year old legs of Brian Boyle for a back-to-back. Casey DeSmith is in the net too for the first time since COVID protocol, and the first time since being pulled against St. Louis on January 6th.

First period

In the battle of the backup goalies, it’s Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo who blinks first, and early too. Very nice play from Sidney Crosby to pull the puck to his stick from his skate and then passes over to empty space for Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin wires a really nice shot, but Korpisalo isn’t in any position to do anything about it. 1-0 Pens just 34 seconds into the game.

Kris Letang gets tripped and the Penguins get a power play. It results in DeSmith blinking to tie the game. Gustav Nyquist intercepts Evgeni Malkin’s pass attempt and takes off with Malkin in good position at least defensively. Nyquist fans on a shot and looks like he’s going to run out of space so he just throws the puck on from no angle at all. And DeSmith...lets it right in. Sucks on a broken play to not get the shot when he was expecting it, but a turnover plus terrible goaltending is a brutal combination. 1-1 game.

The reverse angle, Casey wyd?

Before the end of the period the Jackets strike again. A shot attempt goes high and wide and the rebound pops in front of the net. DeSmith isn’t square to the shot and stuck a bit even behind his goal line and Boone Jenner’s shot leaks through the body of the net and into the goal. Oof. 2-1 CBJ with 1:14 left in the period.

The Penguins can answer with 28 seconds left. Columbus gets caught on an icing and the Pens pounce with the Crosby line. And it’s the captain himself how wins the faceoff, Jake Guentzel passes the puck back and Bryan Rust shoots. The puck bounces around like a pinball and ends up in reach of Sid, who can swing it into the net. 2-2 as the Pens salvage a tie coming out of the first.

Shots in the first are 12-11 in favor of Columbus. Total goalie save percentage in the game: .840%.

Second period

Mike Sullivan has again seen enough of DeSmith. Tristan Jarry is in net for the start of the second period, despite having played a full game last night.

Jeff Carter gets a breakaway courtesy of a nice Evan Rodrigues pass, but Korpisalo makes a save with his right pad.

Crosby is sent to the box for an o-zone trip to give Columbus their first power play of the game. The Pens kill it off. Nyquist later takes down John Marino behind the Pens’ net, and gets a penalty — so at least Nyquist can’t score on the PK when he’s in the box. Kasperi Kapanen hits the post but no goal.

Speaking of Kapanen, late in the second he’s moved off the Evgeni Malkin line in favor of Evan Rodrigues.

Shots in the second are 12-11 PIT, with the game settling down and goalies on each side of the ice keeping the puck out of the net after a shaky first.

Third period

Danton Heinen with Malkin and Rodrigues almost pays dividends but Heinen misses an empty net. Rodrigues draws a penalty but Crosby started passing twice to areas where no Penguin players were. Very odd.

Finally, it’s Pittsburgh’s turn for a trickler. Mike Matheson unleashes a heavy shot from distance that somehow leaks through Korpisalo and ends on rolling on it’s side right over the line. Wow. 3-2 Pens with 14:25 left.

More Columbus pressure leads to Crosby’s second penalty of the game to give CBJ another crack on the power play. They kill most of it, but not all of it when Max Domi shoots from the left side a high shot with a moving Nyquist screen. It flutters over the shoulder short-side on Jarry who couldn’t pick it up.

But wait, the Pens challenge for offside. And video coach Andy Saucier doesn’t often miss on these, especially with a penalty on the line if a team is wrong. Saucier ain’t wrong, a player on the off-wing was a hair off-side and the Pens stay up 3-2.

The Pens kill what is left of the Crosby penalty then get a late power play of their own when Jarry gets run. CBJ adds fuel to the fire with a delay of game puck over glass penalty for 1:38 of a Pens 5v3. Pittsburgh controls the puck well, passes around for a while and finally Rust feeds Crosby for a classic one-knee one-t. 4-2 Pens.

Pittsburgh is back to the power play when Jenner runs Dumoulin from behind. Some nice passing and looks at the net, no goal.

With about 2:30, the Jackets pull Korpisalo. Doesn’t work. Crosby look like he’s trying to lead Rust with a pass out of the zone but the angle the puck is banked off the board isn’t one Rust can catch up to. But, it is on target to go in the net. Sid completes his hat trick, Pens up 5-2 with the dagger.

Some thoughts

  • This could have been a season and future-defining game for DeSmith, and it couldn’t have gone much worse. For his second straight game, he didn’t even get close to the finish line before getting the hook.
  • This is growing into an untenable situation to have a goalie who can’t keep the puck out of the net and a coach past tired of those struggles. Not too much more to say, two more, if not soft goals, certainly shouldn’t have both ended up in the net, yet they did. DeSmith simply isn’t meeting the standard of playing NHL caliber goaltending, and it really looks like Sullivan’s tolerance for his performance has totally run out.
  • Sullivan’s changes didn’t stop there with Kapanen yanked off Malkin’s line and the d-pairs staggered a bit to where Matheson was with Marino. Matheson’s been so hot lately it’s high time for him to get more opportunities to play and time on the ice.
  • And while Matheson has lit up the scoreboard as of late, don’t overlook what Brian Dumoulin is doing. His goal was a great shot. He also jumped in to the play and dropped a pass for Matheson to hammer. While no one is still going to confuse Brian Dumoulin for Brian Leetch, Dumo’s offense has definitely kicked up a notch in December and January, as this two point effort tonight reinforces.
  • Crosby was brilliant in the first period with his pass to Dumoulin and that last second reaction to deflect an incoming shot that was already tipped. That stuff is taken for granted at this point, and then he got an important power play insurance goal late, followed by an empty netter from about 160 feet, banked off a wall. I wouldn’t play Sidney Crosby in a game of pool.
  • Heinen has missed some glorious chances lately. On one hand, it’s nice he’s getting in position to get chances. On the other hand, this is how he excelled early in the season when he was scoring on a lot of these. He’s turned cold.
  • Nice to see the refs actually call the game and not the score and/or time on the clock with 4 penalties somewhat late in the third period. One, of course, they had no choice on the puck over glass as an automatic call, but they kept calling the infractions. What a novel concept! Too often there’s one or no penalties in the third period of a tight game.

15 out of 17 wins for the Pens now, who keep rollin’ and are now quickly on a four-game winning streak. It’s a pretty quick turnaround back to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon game and really the only question to deal with now is just what the Pens are going to do about their deteriorating backup goalie position that has to be getting close to a breaking point.