Pierre-Olivier Joseph makes his return to the lineup after a one week absence from an injury. Tristan Jarry is back in net.
Almost time for hockey. pic.twitter.com/84YJLXGCme— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2022
Pittsburgh gets on the board first, Rickard Rakell and Jake Guentzel both use active sticks to help get the puck away from the Wild and as they are changing their defense it springs up to Sidney Crosby. Sid snipes a shot on Filip Gustavsson far and to the corner to get the Pens on the board 8:15 into the game.
Fun fact: Sidney Crosby has now scored the first goal of the game four times this season - that's tied for the league lead. pic.twitter.com/gsLyKGtALi— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2022
The Pens only get four shots on the period, but they make them count, including Ryan Poehling finding the back of the net. Josh Archibald jumps on a turnover and races up the ice with speed. His cross-ice pass finds Poehling who buries it. 2-0 Pittsburgh.
You really do love to see it.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2022
Poehling on scoring his first goal against his hometown team: "It's special. I just realized how blessed I am. I just wanted to play high school hockey and now I'm in the national league. It's really special." pic.twitter.com/SRPolvcMbO
Otherwise, a quiet period of mostly neutral zone play. Shots are only 5-4 Minnesota, but the score is 2-0 Pittsburgh.
As usual for the Penguins, when it goes off the rails, it goes off in a hurry. This time they give up two goals in just 12 seconds to see their early lead evaporate. Brandon Duhaime gets the Wild on the board by unleashing a shot with the defender as a screen that Jarry is left not picking up.
To compound the problems, right off the following faceoff the Wild storm right back in the zone and score again. Brian Dumoulin can’t clear the zone, Joel Eriksson Ek goes strong to the crease as a direct result. His shot attempts eventually gets the puck behind Jarry, off the cross-bar, off Jarry’s back and trickles into the net. 2-2 game, just like that.
After that rude wake up, the Pens do better. Teddy Blueger puts the puck in the net, but the goal is immediately wiped off and Archibald takes a penalty for goalie interference. Archibald was helped into Gustavsson by a push from behind, and perhaps didn’t do enough to stop and have it stand as a good goal, but the penalty call for it is a very bad break.
Perhaps sensing the need to even it up, the refs call a slash on Eriksson Ek on the ensuing power play when Poehling again puts pressure on Minnesota while shorthanded. Then Connor Dewar takes an ill-advised high-sticking minor and Pittsburgh is left with some carryover time on a 5-on-3 power play.
Lo and behold, the big guns make Minnesota pay. Crosby uses his classic patience to find the right play and feeds Kris Letang. Letang quickly unloads a shot for his first goal of the year to (perhaps rightfully) put the Pens back up 3-2 as they should have been.
BIG THREE CONNECTION!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2022
Malkin ➡️ Crosby ➡️ Letang ➡️ pic.twitter.com/q28quJeCmK
Shots in the second are 16-9 Pittsburgh. Aside from 12 seconds, it was a glorious period for Pittsburgh. But, par for the course for them this season, those 12 seconds still count and have this as a 3-2 game going into the third period.
Duhaime heads to the box for the Wild and the Pens make them pay for a second power play goal on the night. Jake Guentzel drives down the left wing and centers the puck. Crosby is able to pop free at the right moment and get enough on the puck to send it past Gustavsson, and Pittsburgh once again has their (maybe dreaded) two-goal lead again with 14:10 left in the game.
✨ HOCKEY MAGIC FROM THE CAPTAIN ✨ pic.twitter.com/1u8pInZZB0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2022
Rakell rings a puck off the post but not in, the Pens get another power play but it’s Minnesota who scores early. The switching lateral movement of Frederick Gaudreau and Eriksson Ek catches Malkin and Letang off-guard. And Eriksson Ek has Jarry’s number on this night, he snaps a five-hole shot in to pull the Pens’ lead down to 4-3.
JOEL ERIKSSON EK SHORTY. pic.twitter.com/xiTGX7VomZ— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) November 18, 2022
With Minnesota hanging around, their goaltending lets them down. Brock McGinn does well to fight through a check and throws a long range shot that somehow finds the back of the net. Not terribly dis-similar from the first goal Jarry allowed, but at least that was a better placed shot up high and with a lot more velocity on it. Regardless, the Pens will gladly accept the gift and move back up to a 5-3 lead as the clock starts to become a factor with 5:27 remaining.
McGinn, so hot right now. McGinn.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2022
Brock McGinn has four goals in his last five games. pic.twitter.com/deIBgxEG5n
Minnesota has to get aggressive in a two-goal hole, they pull the goalie with just under four minutes left. Crosby gets the puck behind his net and Guentzel lets him know vocally he’s free and clear. Crosby slings the puck to him, and it’s an easy empty net finish for Jake to end the competitive portion of the game and make it a 6-3 game.
With just seven seconds left in the game, Matt Dumba scores a goal for Minnesota. Cool.
- The fourth line was playing with a lot of pep again to make a positive difference. Archibald isn’t a young player, but his legs and energy do jump out from time to time. He had the motor running at a high RPM in this game tonight. It was nice to see Poehling asserting himself and being more active with the puck than the average game too.
- 5v3 power plays are typically a huge turning point and key moment in a game, and the Pens’ group didn’t let them down. For all the deserved consternation about the Pittsburgh power play, they’re still a bunch of the most talented players you can put out there and they came through when needed.
- It might be really big too that Letang scored a goal, and on the power play to boot. It’s weird to think that supremely talented athletes who have been good for so long can use a confidence boost or get a pay off for their efforts, but it’s still the case. One probably couldn’t have drawn up a better conclusion for that 5v3 advantage than a Crosby pass for a Letang goal, and that’s exactly what happened. It’s nice when it comes together like that.
- This was Sidney Crosby’s first power play point in the last 12 games, which almost doesn’t seem like a real stat. Relatedly: the prior 12 games were not good for the Pens.
- Four point night for Crosby too. After a few oddly quiet - if not dismal - games in a row, it was the big breakout that everyone expected to eventually happen. And until the third period he was also taking more than 50% of the faceoffs too. It wasn’t a high ice time game for Crosby, but coach Mike Sullivan was doing all he could to put the captain out to help carry the load. With 19 wins on 27 draws (70%), Crosby was doing just that in the circle and then all over the ice.
- How about those green reverse retro North Stars-inspired Minnesota jerseys? Definitely one of the sharper ones around.
- If you know nothing else right now, you probably know Penguins hockey is not for the faint of heart these days. No lead is safe. Any rush against them could trigger a poor defensive or goaltending play. Power plays might score, or they might give up a goal. The penalty kill may or may not show signs of resistance. On the flip side though, it’s still a very skilled team that has the capability to put a lot of goals on the board at the end of the day. No lead is safe, but no game is necessarily out of reach either.
The fun continues on Saturday night in Winnipeg. You won’t want to miss it, because who really knows what is going to happen at this point.