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Penguins/Coyotes Recap: All systems go for Pens in opening night blowout 6-2 win

The Pens open the season the right way, by scoring early and often and never looking back against the out-matched Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

It did not take long for the Pittsburgh Penguins to answer any questions about if they were ready for the start of the 2022-23 season. Just 82 seconds into the game, Sidney Crosby scored the opening goal of the season, converting a pass from the corner from Jake Guentzel to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.

After the next shift, the Arizona Coyotes made a mistake on a line change resulting in a penalty against them for too many men on the ice. While the Pens would not officially score on that power play, Jason Zucker pounded in his first goal of the season just seconds after it expired to extend the lead to 2-0.

It wasn’t long after that the Pens got their second power play, and this time it only took seven seconds for Jake Guentzel to flip in a pass from Bryan Rust into an open net and make the score 3-0 just barely five minutes into the season.

Shots in the first period ended up 16-4 in favor of the home team. While anyone with minimal hockey knowledge knew this would be a long year for the Coyotes, it started off about as frightening as it could have for being out-classed on the ice.

Deep into the first, noted piece of trash Shayne Gostisbehere takes his frustrations out with a late and very low check on the legs of Evgeni Malkin.

The Coyotes would open their scoring account in the second period on their second power play of the period. Nick Ritchie got a pass and went post and in on Tristan Jarry with 3:50 left in the frame to bring the score to 3-1.

Before the period ended, the Pens added a power play goal of their own. Crosby threw the puck on net, causing goalie Karel Vejmelka to lose his net and slide out a bit. That caused a big problem for Arizona with Malkin taking a backhanded swipe into the open cage, sending the game to a 4-1 score after two periods.

In the third period, Ritchie would run it back, again on the power play and again receiving a pass to put him in the middle of the ice with space. Ritchie deked Jarry and slid the puck into the open net as a result to make it 4-2 with over 15 minutes left in the game.

Later in the game, after a mass in front of the Pens’ net, the puck went the other way and Bryan Rust was able to find a loose puck and tap it into the net to give some insurance and make the score 5-2 with 4:59 remaining. A big ‘ol scrum happened after, with the scrappy Coyotes showing a lot of fight and push back but only after the puck ended up in their net yet again.

The Pens cause a 2-on-1 and Kasperi Kapanen gets one for the road, converting a pass from Danton Heinen and firing it past Vejmelka.

That would cap the scoring for the Pens to skate away with their first win of the season in the first game of the year.

Some Thoughts

  • Kudos of Steve Mears in the AT&T Sportsnet broadcast, tonight marks the first time that Sidney Crosby scored the first goal in the first game of the season. Just when you think there aren’t any more “firsts” left for Sid.
  • If you made a top five list for “players you’d like to see get off to a good start to set the tone for the season and gain some confidence” (hey it’s a very specific list), I think you would have to put Zucker on that list. And he probably wouldn’t be No. 4 or 5 on it either. Great to see him score a goal, after only lighting the lamp eight times in 41 games last season. If Zucker is able to get his finishing going it will be a really great sign moving forward.
  • Kapanen would be on that list too. His goal in the end of a blowout doesn’t mean much for the game, but in the broader scope, it could be extremely beneficial for probably the player on the team whose game ebbs and flows the most based on the mental part and the confidence that he can carry into games.
  • Guentzel and Crosby, on the other hand, don’t need to give any reminders that they are the proverbial straw that stirs the drink for the offense. But they were there just the same early. When those guys create time and space, usually playing off each other’s passes, they are going to fill the net. Done and done early in this game, just as it usually is for those two game in and game out. Just seamlessly picking right back up from where they left off in the first round of the playoffs.
  • One interesting wrinkle is that the Pens were moving Crosby around on faceoffs. On Malkin’s power play goal in the second period, Geno took the faceoff. A little later, Guentzel was taking a draw and Crosby was lined up right behind him for a possible quick shot attempt. Earlier in the first, when Guentzel scored his PPG, it was again Malkin who took the faceoff. The Pens have not been terribly creative over the years to utilize Crosby starting away from the faceoff circle, but especially on power plays that was a big deal in this game. Something to keep an eye for, especially since it resulted in two quick PPG’s with Malkin and not Crosby taking the faceoffs, which is something that normally would not happen.
  • Even strength defense was good for the Pens. The PK got spread and then exploited with puck movement. Something to clean up for the future, but the good news for the special teams overall was evened out by the power play striking twice (and then a third time just after) and was looking sharp.
  • The Pens high-pressure offense was on. 53 shots on goal, and seven players had four or more of them.
  • Temperatures were hot in the third, with players yelling at each other, physicality after the whistle, some big hits. The regular season is back!

It won’t be the best competition the Pens see, but an NHL team can’t pick their schedule. Things ramp up on Saturday when the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning come to town.