One night after only recording four shots on goal in the third period against Seattle, the Penguins looked like a team low on gas getting just five shots in the opening frame against the Detroit Red Wings.
It looks like the Pens might escape the first 20 unscathed until a defensive breakdown cost them a goal with 1:41 left in the opening frame. A Mike Matheson giveaway from in deep gifted the Red Wings a golden chance. Givani Smith made it count, spinning away from John Marino and finding a rebound to sling the puck through Casey DeSmith.
The Penguins leaned on their power play to get back into the game, scoring on their first opportunity with the man advantage early in the first period. After puck and player movement (the latter always a key for this group to avoid stagnation) Sidney Crosby ended up near the point and fired from there. The puck hit Evgeni Malkin, now stationed in front of the net. So too was Jake Guentzel, who was able to find the rebound and smack it past Calvin Pickard to tie the game at 1, coming 5:54 into the second.
All-Star Jake Guentzel makes it count ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/gzwNFR3kWt— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 29, 2022
For all the trouble that Casey DeSmith has caused the Pens in recent weeks and months, he performed much better in this game. DeSmith stopped a few odd-man rushes in the first period. In the second, he stoned a very good player in Dylan Larkin from the door-step and made another series of saves later. Those were the types of sequences where the Pens have been fishing the puck out of the back of the net, but their goalie gave them a chance in this one.
Part of that chance came later with a second power play opportunity, but they could not capitalize.
Instead, it was Detroit who scored on a power play with 3:29 left. Dominik Simon was penalized for hooking and Filip Zadina was able to score from in front of the net to re-establish the Red Wings’ lead.
Pittsburgh opened the third with a flourish, Guentzel on the forecheck rushed Filip Hronek who then turned it over to Crosby. Guentzel quickly made himself available in front of the net and Crosby hit him with a pass that Guentzel quickly sniped past Pickard to tie the game just 27 seconds into the third.
Red Wings: 2— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 29, 2022
Jake Guentzel: 2 pic.twitter.com/QOVLxoTq0u
That would earn Pittsburgh a point and give them the opportunity to play even more hockey.
A Kris Letang turnover resulted in a 2-on-1 where DeSmith made the save of his season using the glove to rob Larkin once again and extend the game.
An exciting overtime with chances at both ends didn’t yield a goal, so a shootout was required.
After Guentzel missed to open the shootout, rookie Lucas Raymond beat DeSmith low. Crosby’s shot was stopped and Larkin was stopped yet again by his nemesis DeSmith on the evening. Kris Letang couldn’t score and the game was over.
Detroit earns the win, but the Pens take another point for the standings.
- Tonight was the sixth game in nine days for Pittsburgh, which is not so nice. Little signs of energy level being low were everywhere below the surface. Bryan Rust slowly skated to the bench for a change just 25 seconds into the second period. His linemates were a few seconds behind. Average shift times are forever shrinking, but it just looked like the energy tanks are running low.
- To start the second Mike Sullivan shuffled his wingers around, perhaps sensing he needed to try and find a spark. Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen were dropped to play with Brian Boyle, which..ouch. Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese moved up to work with Jeff Carter, and Malkin was put with Evan Rodrigues and Brock McGinn. The Crosby line remained unchanged.
- Of all the changes, perhaps unsurprisingly the most visible new line was McGinn-Malkin-Rodrigues. It’ll be interesting to see if that sticks. Per Josh Yohe, tonight was the third time in eight games Kapanen was demoted away from Malkin. Will he get another chance to get that spot soon?
- The power play now has eight total goals in the last 10 games, which also marks the point where Evgeni Malkin returned. It was at just 17 goals in 34 games to start the season in the Geno-less portion of the campaign.
- A night after taking a third period penalty against Seattle (where the Kraken would continue to build their momentum and score not long after it was over), Simon took another penalty when it was a tie game in the second period and it wasn’t a tie game when he left the box.
- DeSmith, quite frankly, has taken a ton of shit this season and most of it totally deserved too considering where his save percentage, GSAA, GAA and pretty much any metric rank him. But at the same time, full credit to him on a big time game in this one. He was able to come in and play a tremendous game and make a ton of saves that he just was not making earlier.
- It was a shame DeSmith didn’t end up with the win, he more than produced a winning effort. But beyond just the game result, perhaps DeSmith might have won soemthing on a deeper level if restore at least a little bit of confidence to show what he has shown in past years — that he can do the job.
In some ways now, the Pens are limping towards the All-Star break, but they still have two more games to go in the next four days to get there. Avoiding regulation losses in tough stretches is a key for playoff positioning, so at the least it wasn’t a total loss for Pittsburgh.