Welcome to the 2022-23 season, Teddy Blueger! The forward finally makes his way into the lineup after a long and frustrating recovery from a pre-season injury, bumping Kasperi Kapanen back to healthy scratch territory. Casey DeSmith is in net for the third time in the last four games.
Lined up and ready for hockey. pic.twitter.com/jmkLUutTkD— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 15, 2022
The game opens up very quietly with little going on in the way of action. The Pens get the game’s first power play but don’t achieve much.
It’s Toronto who finds the game’s first goal when John Tavares gets plenty of time and space to snap his 400th career NHL goal home and put the Maple Leafs on the board.
Three minutes later, the Leafs double it up. Mitch Marner is in alone and spins to his forehand as DeSmith’s momentum was carrying him the other direction and that opened up the net for Marner to score. 2-0 Toronto.
Shots in the first are just 8-7 Toronto. This period felt like it was played in a library, and the librarian wouldn’t even have had to raise her voice to tell anyone to pipe down.
Just 11 seconds into the second, Toronto takes advantage of a breakdown and has a 2-on-1 rush. Auston Matthews finds Michael Bunting and it’s a nice finish past a helpless DeSmith to quickly push the Leafs out to a 3-0 lead.
MICHAEL BUNTING— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) November 16, 2022
THE LEAFS ARE BUZZING pic.twitter.com/ElpQRtfG3m
The Pens need some sign of life at this point, and it’s their most productive line of late who immediately answers the bell. Mike Sullivan lifts the Crosby line for the Evgeni Malkin trio. They all cycle the puck around, Jason Zucker pulls the trigger but it’s Rickard Rakell with another deflection goal to finally give the team and crowd some reason to perk up a little.
Ready to Rak up some points of our own! pic.twitter.com/PqFpC6DH2i— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 16, 2022
Rasmus Sandin is a good young defender, but he has an oopsie moment fanning on a breakout attempt. That’s a mistake that is going to be magnified when Sidney Crosby is in the general area. Crosby accepts the gift, drives down on his old pal Matt Murray and the captain unleashes a classic backhander to the far-side that pulls the Pens within one goal at 3-2.
Oh captain, our captain— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 16, 2022
In six home games this season, Sidney Crosby has five goals and six assists. pic.twitter.com/FHoeDewHYD
With this, the Pens are buzzing. Crosby nearly scores again but Jordie Benn keeps the puck out of the net (twice). Murray robs Kris Letang from in tight on a mini-break. Murray then stops Crosby from in tight, and Benn again saves Murray’s bacon by finding a loose puck from a Brock McGinn shot.
After all the mayhem, the Pens can’t find the equalizer, and then Toronto goes back in front by two goals. After Matthews shoots wide on a play that DeSmith had slid out of the crease on, the Leafs work it back around and again DeSmith shuffles himself right away from his blue paint for... reasons? 4-2 Toronto on an easy tap in for Bunting’s second goal of the game after getting inside position on Letang and not having a goalie to worry about.
Shots in the second period end up a wild 15-12 affair in favor of the Leafs. More importantly, they restore their two goal cushion heading into the final period.
Pittsburgh gets a third power play of the game in the third but again can’t turn puck movement into much by the way of scoring chances, let alone a goal. In fact, Benn almost scores himself.
With 3:00 minutes left, an o-zone draw and needing two goals, the Pens go in desperation mode and pull DeSmith for a 6v5 edge. It doesn’t work, William Nylander buries an empty netter with 2:23 left to end any hopes of a Pittsburgh comeback on this night.
- The second period was wild and probably where this game was decided. The Pens owned the puck for about 18 minutes in the middle of it after giving up a goal 11 seconds in. But then a bad final minute gave up another goal, and all the work in the middle of the middle frame (two Pittsburgh goals) were washed out as a result. And the Pens could only get two goals in their onslaught, could have very easily been three or four. But it didn’t end up getting them anywhere.
- It looked like Casey DeSmith was trying to do too much tonight. When he is too active with his movement, he opens himself and the net up for easy goals against. That’s a problem since the Pens’ defense isn’t keeping much to the outside at times. After stopping 28/30 and earning a win vs this Toronto team last week, it’s tough to blame the coach for going back to the hot hand in net. But the second time around, the Leafs looked a lot better prepared and ready to take advantage on how to attack DeSmith this time around.
- The first line of Guentzel-Crosby-Rust were on the ice for all three goals against in the first. Hell, Guentzel was on the ice for all five goals against, period. The GA for all of them is high across the board on the year. How much of that is them, and how much is the defense and goaltending? It’s worth asking. The forwards didn’t look great on Tavares’ opening goal, and the start of the second period was an abject disaster for them. At best, it’s too sloppy by that line — which the Pens need to be lights out good.
- At the other end of the ice, though, Crosby was getting after it. 12 shot attempts, 10 shots attempts in the first two periods alone (though seven were blocked, many by Jordie Benn who was always in the right place at the right time). Crosby was moving out there like a shark smelling blood in the water against Matt Murray and seeing moments like the Sandin mis-play of the puck, which is always fun to see.
- Pens/Toronto season-series now sits at 1-1, rubber match coming up next Saturday. In a very narrow view of the year, go get a result in that one and it’s a positive showing against what should be one of the better teams in the Atlantic.
Pittsburgh hits the road for another three-game swing, starting on Thursday night in Minnesota where they’ll see another former Stanley Cup winning goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury.