Danton Heinen is back and in the Jason Zucker spot for this game, otherwise the Penguins are linin’ ‘em up close to how they’ve been for most of this long winning streak
Lined up and ready for a battle pic.twitter.com/ste11PEIkT— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 15, 2022
Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers can’t even ice a full compliment of players. An illness that has been ravaging their team has knocked Matthew Tkachuk out, and Florida has to roll with only 11 forwards.
#FlaPanthers during warmups:— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) December 15, 2022
Verhaeghe - Barkov - Reinhart
Luostarinen - Bennett - Dalpe
Lomberg - Staal - Cousins
Heponiemi - Denisenko
Forsling - Ekblad
Staal - Montour
Kiersted - Mahura
The Panthers get it going early with the game’s first goal. Eric Staal throws a puck on the net and Tristan Jarry can’t manage the rebound but Ryan Lomberg does and swats it into the net. 1-0 Florida early on.
The Panthers take the game’s first penalty — apparently you CAN get a penalty for removing an opponent’s helmet (CC: refs from last playoffs). The Pens don’t score though.
Jake Guentzel takes a big hit but can soldier on.
Shots in the first are 11-10 in favor of FLA after 20 minutes. The Pens owe Jarry a debt of gratitude that the score is only 1-0.
Jan Rutta takes his first of two trips to the penalty box in the second period early on, but it ends up working out to be a Pittsburgh short-handed goal. Ryan Poehling does a nice job to just kinda use a pitch shot from the golf course to flop the puck up and into space and Bryan Rust is on the move for a 2-on-1. Rust makes the play with a pretty backhander over to Kris Letang who has jumped up into the play. Letang expertly finishes it off with some touch to just lift it up and over the sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky. 1-1 game.
YOU LOVE TO SEE A SHORTHANDED GAME-TYING GOAL pic.twitter.com/BO9CeQgfOb— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 16, 2022
The Pens go back to a power play a little later, and they get a PPG for the seventh straight game. Evgeni Malkin brings the heat with a shot from distance and Jake Guentzel is in front to redirect it in. Simple, effective. 2-1 Pens lead.
JAKE GUENTZ THE POWER-PLAY GOAL!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 16, 2022
The Penguins have scored power-play goals in seven consecutive games. pic.twitter.com/5bkQjwHQ1x
The rest of the period is the Tristan Jarry show. Florida has probably four or five glorious opportunities to score, but they get nothing more in this period. The Pens’ netminder was playing out of his mind and making big save after big save.
Late in the period Rutta goes back to the penalty box but the Pens keep it square.
Shots in the second go 18-12 in favor of FLA. One of Jarry’s best periods of the season makes sure the goal situation in the second goes 2-0 in favor of the Pens in middle frame.
Pittsburgh kills off the rest of the carryover penalty into the third period, and eventually get another power play when Aaron Ekblad clears the puck over the glass. The Pens go back to the simple “get a guy to the net and direct it in from a far shot” but this time to painful effects. Sidney Crosby winds up with a slapshot and it’s Malkin at the right of the net this time. The slapper drills Malkin above the knee pad and below his pants. The good news is after it pounds into Malkin’s leg, it ricochets into the net. The bad news is that’s the most painful way to score a goal seen in some time.
Not the way we wanted to score. pic.twitter.com/h4ciZo5fs0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 16, 2022
Malkin is down for a while and requires help to leave the game. Unfortunately 2:09 later, the Pens give that goal right back when Carter Verhaeghe feathers a pass right through Jake Guentzel, Chad Ruhwedel and Rutta and Sam Reinhart is able to quickly shoot and beat Jarry. 3-2 Pens, who still have 9:46 left to navigate in this game.
Game ambles on, Florida doesn’t really seem to show that much actual desperation, but they pull Bobrovsky and Guentzel nets his second goal of the night, this time on an empty net to salt away the victory and set the final score at 4-2.
- Hand up, gotta admit for the split second after Ryan Lomberg scored, my mental recall confused him for thinking he was one-time New York Ranger Ryan Hollweg, but that didn’t feel right. It wasn’t, being as Hollweg hasn’t played in the NHL since 2010, as you might better recall. Just thought that old, random Rangers (Eric Staal, Marc Staal, etc) retire early down in Florida, I suppose.
- This one should open, end and begin with Tristan Jarry. He’s been playing very, very well for about a month now, but it was on a different level tonight. Excellent level of goaltending for the Pens in this game. The first 30-35 minutes were fairly blah from Pittsburgh. Jarry was by far their best player and held them close so that they could win it.
- Two power play goals, scored basically the same way. Get a guy to the front of the net, shoot it and deflect it in. Ideally not with our thighs next time. Poor Geno, tough way to score a goal, hopefully it’s just a really painful bruise to deal with and not much more, which is really easy to say when your leg doesn’t have to eat a Sidney Crosby slapper.
- Kris Letang, as usual, led the Pens in ice time in this game (25:44). That’s not notable, since it almost always happens and is a big number. But what was notable is Letang’s skating is looking exceptionally strong, even by his standards. He jumped up in the play for the shortie, but all around the ice and all night long, it was standing out. Letang hasn’t had a very smooth season, but for my money this was about as good of a game as he’s just gotten around the ice. (He also had that goal plus an assist, which is nice, but even beyond that, he’s just looking about as good as ever and probably about the best he has all season).
- Dreadful night for Rutta though. Two trips to the penalty box, and he was also on ice for both goals Florida scored. Rutta and Brian Dumoulin continue to sink in the Corsi and chance department too. Winning games is masking their performance a bit, but it’s not a pretty picture with 8-44 on the ice, usually bad things are happening to the Pens and they’re fishing pucks out of their net.
- Been noticing a trend over the years that Jake Guentzel will take a monster hit, and usually end up firing back with goals. We all know Guentzel isn’t big, and takes maybe more than his share of abuse, but that never seems to phase him and more often than not seems to fuel him to step up from there. A classic “little brother” syndrome to take punishment and not shrink from it. Happened again in this game early on getting rocked and finding a way to shrug it off and score two goals.
- Danton Heinen went from the outhouse to the penthouse on the second line, and the results? 13:48 played, one shot on goal, one giveaway, one offensive zone penalty. Not exactly a hair-raising performance.
- The Pens finished with 39 shots on goal, but had six skaters (1/3 of the lineup) finish with zero or one SOG. The first line members had 17 total shots in all situations. Add Letang and Pettersson in, and that was 22 out of the 39 shots, or almost 56%. Malkin and Rust were active too, but this team is getting carried by the broad shoulders of their high-end players right now.
It’s a win nonetheless and seven in a row. Now the Pens get a couple more days off and prep to play on the road in Carolina on Sunday, against a strong team that it feels like Pittsburgh never beats these days. They’ll need to find a way to keep this winning streak going.