clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Penguins/Vegas Recap: Pens grind and will a comeback against Golden Knights

After falling behind 2-0, the Pens get to work and pull out a 4-3 regulation win over the visiting Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images


The Penguins roll out the same lines and lineup as the loss on Tuesday night, with Tristan Jarry back in the net.

First period

Vegas enters the game as the league’s least penalized team this season, so naturally William Carrier gets a penalty on the very first shift for pulling down Jake Guentzel. As is customary with the Pens’ power play, they get no shots on goal, but give one up on a nice scoring chance that Jarry has to bail them out with a leg pad save.

The Golden Knights get the opening goal soon after. Jack Eichel is left on the door step, and sadly Brian Dumoulin just ain’t making this defensive play any more these days. 1-0 Vegas, 3:59 into the contest.

That goal wakes up the Pens, who start bombarding Logan Thompson with shots and chances for the rest of the period. And early on, the rookie goaltender is up for the challenge.

Chad Ruhwedel is the next player to head to the penalty box and at first Jarry and the Pens do very well to keep them off the board. But then they allow their first power play goal in nine games to Vegas’ second unit when Phil Kessel makes a cross-ice pass and Reilly Smith skates in and lifts a puck over Jarry’s glove to make it 2-0.

Score ends up 2-0 after one, and as is becoming trend has been a little unlucky for the Penguins to be down despite playing pretty well for the majority of the game. Overall shots are 18-14 PIT, 5v5 scoring chances are 12-6 PIT. But especially on special teams, Vegas is doing much better, and that counts too.

Second period

The Pens keep chipping away in the second, a great shift by the second line amps up the pressure. Jason Zucker is stopped on a breakaway but the puck stays in the Vegas end, the Pens switch and they score a goal. Brock McGinn whirls out and fires a puck from a bad angle, it looks like it his the defender and goes past Thompson. 2-1 Vegas still up, but the Pens are back in the game.

On the next shift, a puck blasted by Jeff Petry trickles past Thompson but somehow both Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel are tied up just before each tries to get a crack at chipping it in the net.

Carrier goes back to the box, but Jeff Carter goes with him for bowling into the goalie to make it some 4v4 hockey. It gets to 5v5 again, but not for long with Dumoulin heading to the box to hand the Golden Knights their second power play of the evening. The Pens kill it off.

And then the first line goes to work, Guentzel dumps the puck into the corner and the Pens grind it down. Eventually Crosby is hounding Nic Hague behind the net and forces a turnover. Crosby moves the puck quickly to Guentzel, who just as quickly makes a perfect play to not force a shot but instead find the stick of Rickard Rakell for an easy tap in goal. 2-2 game.

Carrier heads back to his home away from home (third trip to the penalty box in the game) and the power play gets another crack at it. Luckily Jarry comes up big with another save on a 3-on-2 rush.

The Pens can’t get out of the period without Zucker taking a roughing penalty to allow a third power play.

Shots in the second are 15-7 Pens, who came out gunning and playing a very strong period to get two goals, allow none and tie the game.

Third period

Vegas controls the puck on the carryover power play, and eventually find the back of the net to take the lead. Shea Theodore shoots from distance and the puck may have hit something in the traffic from Jan Rutta and Mark Stone in front before getting by Jarry. 3-2 lead for VGK but still 18:34 left to go.

Hague goes to the box soon after for tripping Bryan Rust. It’s the best looking Pittsburgh power play of the night (which isn’t saying much) but still can’t score.

More 4v4 action ensues after matching minors, Crosby almost sets up another goal and Guentzel draws a penalty leading 1:26 worth of a 4v3 Penguin power play. The unusual structure of it pays off. Malkin is patient with the puck and eventually makes a cross-ice pass for Guentzel. Guentzel one-times a high shot past Thompson to tie the game at 3-3.

Pittsburgh keeps the pedal to the metal. There’s a Kasperi Kapanen sighting with him actually using his speed and making a hit on the forecheck (when is the last time that was seen?) and an indirect Dumoulin pass for McGinn is passed out to Kapanen for him to quickly shoot and record his first goal since the season opener. The Pens have two goals in 1:52, and have taken a 4-3 lead with 10:35 remaining.

Extremely exciting third period opens up with chances at both ends, Jarry stepping up to make several great stop to keep the Pens out in front. With two minutes left, Vegas pulls Thompson for an extra attacker. They get plenty of zone time, but the Pens’ 5v6 shell and Jarry hold up to keep the puck out of the net and skate out of here with the win.

Some thoughts

  • Ryan Poehling left the game after an awkward looking collision with one of his own teammates in the first period, but fortunately would return in the second period and finish out the game.
  • This first half of this game followed a very specific and familiar theme for the Penguins: a poor first period on the scoreboard and bad power play, but good play otherwise. A very good second period in response and Guentzel/Crosby do something to get them back in the game. It seems like a very similar script to this has played out at least a dozen times already this season.
  • The Pens are now 5-1-0 when tied after two periods. That’s a nice development to be able and pull out close games, and overcome those slow starts when they happen.
  • Not much more to be said about the power play struggles at this point. Without exaggeration it’s rare when they aren’t giving up the best chance on their own advantage. Tough looks now, without much to turn to or try. Getting Rakell up on that top group just looks like it makes too much sense to not try now.
  • And while it’s nice in desperation the Pens did get their first PPG in seven games, it coming in a more unconventional a 4v3 scenario and not a 5v4 one is not a surprise. Still, streaks and confidence can be built in odd ways and is at least something to build upon.
  • Speaking of building upon things, it was just as badly needed to see Kapanen make something happen. He got an assist on McGinn’s opening goal but wasn’t a huge factor in it, but he finally stepped up and made something happen in the third period of a tie game. That’s what the team has been pleading and waiting so long to see him actually make a positive difference and put the puck in the net.
  • The Golden Knights came into this game with the third most points in the standings, they’ve been a very good team. Both clubs were without their best right handed defender, but the Pens stood toe to toe with a division leader and came out of the night with a well-earned win. It could be argued this was one of the more impressive and top wins of the year so far with how all four lines were forechecking, the high quantity and quality of shots piled up,

It was a great day for hockey in Pittsburgh, entertaining game and a victory to put them at 8-2-2 in the last 12 games since breaking that nasty seven-game losing streak. It wasn’t perfect, but a very impressive workman-like effort (all three non-PP goals started from behind the net) was a great path for the Pens to follow to grind and will their way back from a 2-0 hole and pull out a victory. Next game comes Saturday night against the visiting St. Louis Blues.