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Penguins/Blues Recap: Kap trick! Kapanen’s big night helps Pens win

A couple of aspects that have been cold for Pittsburgh (Kapanen, Rust, power play) heat up to easily blow by the Blues.

St Louis Blues v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images


The Penguins are going with the lines that has brought them some success lately.

Here are how the visiting Blues look, with some late-breaking news that Jordan Kyrou is out tonight with an illness.

First period

St. Louis heads to the penalty box early on, and the much-maligned Pens’ power play is put to the test. It looks OK at first, and then ever better with the second group. P.O. Joseph makes a really nice play down to Kasperi Kapanen who boots in a goal — technically just after the penalty ended, but just as good no matter what it’s called. 1-0 Pens.

Pittsburgh keeps it going, thanks to more aggressive forechecking and getting Jordan Binnington to play the puck to the wrong way. Evgeni Malkin gets a piece of that and Jason Zucker gets back to work along the boards. Bryan Rust ends up with the puck and wheels off the left wall onto his strong side and fires the puck past Binnington to make it 2-0.

The Blues need something good to happen, and they get it. Shortly after the Rust goal, there’s a TV timeout and STL gets a regroup. Robert Thomas beats Teddy Blueger on a faceoff, the Blues spread the Pens out and Pavel Buchnevich gets a good, long pass from Nick Leddy and wires it quickly by Jarry. That gets St. Louis back in it at 2-1, just 48 game seconds after Rust’s goal.

The Blues head back to the box when Ivan Barbashev gets the gate for tripping Evgeni Malkin. The Blues get a short-handed break, but Jarry is prepared and shuts it down. The play goes the other way and Malkin makes a beauty of a spinning pass for Kapanen to tap into the net before Binnington can sprawl over for it. 3-1, the Pens are buzzin.

Binnington is spinning out of control, Malkin drives to the crease with authority, and then on the next shift Rickard Rakell and Jake Guentzel are all in the crease as well. The hot-tempered Binnington sticks out his glove and lets Jason Zucker skate right into him behind the net.

The refs conference to review what happened, they guess and call it a double minor high stick, seemingly since they can use a video review on a double minor penalty to get it right. Since they see there was no stick involved, they can’t have a penalty at all on the play - even though it was clear Binnington interfered/roughed Zucker. NHL officiating, everybody!

Anyways, what an action-packed opening period in Pittsburgh. Shots are 15-8 Pens, the power play is showing signs of life, Kasperi Kapanen has doubled his season total in goals on the season in just 20 minutes and Bryan Rust gets on the board too. Pittsburgh had a 2-0 edge in power plays, but the shot attempts being 30-13 really show how the first period went.

Second period

The Pens’ second line stays hot, Malkin feeds Zucker who has plenty of room in the middle of the ice. Zucker might have thrown a changeup and whiffed a little on a ton of power, but it beats Binnington anyways. 4-1.

Binnington’s unraveling is complete, he’s pulled from the game but before he goes, he takes off his helmet and barks some incoherent at the Pens bench as he goes by.

Zucker just comically shrugs at him and Binner gets a 10-minute misconduct for the road.

Backup and former Penguin Thomas Greiss comes into the game, but catches an edge when he tries to lean back and stop, wiping out and taking out the goal. Oh boy, just not a good day for the Blues at this point.

The Pens put another dominant shift in the o-zone, but perhaps Joseph gets too memorized by the Malkin show, because he let Vladimir Tarasenko behind him. Thomas gets the puck and advances it to Tarasenko on a breakaway. He picks five-hole and snaps it through Jarry. 4-2 game.

Torey Krug takes a penalty by slashing Josh Archibald’s stick and the Pens make them pay. It’s the second power play again, and it’s Kasperi Kapanen again. Rust makes a dandy of a pass and it’s a wide open net for Kapanen to tap in another for his hat trick. 5-2 game.

Shots in the second are 13-7 Pens, who are in about total control of this one. In many ways, St. Louis is lucky to have limited Pittsburgh to only five goals in the first two periods, they have been close to easily having about double that.

Third period

Jan Rutta takes a penalty early on to send STL to their first power play of the night, but Pittsburgh kills it off.

The wall-to-wall excitement and general mayhem of the first two periods has completely melted away, both teams look like they’re just skating out the string and trying to get out of this one. STL perks up a little when Joseph goes to the box to give them another power play, but they can’t score.

At 5:21 remaining, the Blues pull Greiss, because hey, why not? Crosby gets the empty net for his first point of the game (and hopefully ensures the #SidStache will live on for a few more days). 6-2 Pens with 4:48 left.

Some thoughts

  • For the first time since March 2021, Kapanen has scored goals in consecutive games. And a hat trick in this one too, finally getting some results and warming up after being ice cold for so long. It took a long period of healthy scratches to get through, but he’s going to the blue paint and getting rewarded for it.
  • Almost as sad, tonight marks the first time since late October that the Pens have scored PPG in consecutive games. But at least it’s heating up now!
  • Speaking of a player on the wrong end of a streak, Bryan Rust recorded his second goal of the last 16 games tonight. He’s a player with a long history of fairly lengthy cold stretches, followed by extreme periods of production. Could he be swinging back toward the good zone? A goal and three assists in this game makes his boxcars look better already and with Rust’s skill level and spot in the lineup, he should be positioned to continue to chip in more than the previous month or so.
  • Sidney Crosby had five shots on goal in the first and seven total shot attempts. It’s easy to tell with the struggling power play that he’s trying to simplify his game and get pucks to the net.
  • Jordan Binnington is one strange cat. He flat out hit Jordan Staal of Carolina recently, was taking liberties with Zucker (who fittingly got revenge by scoring the goal that chased the goalie from the game). His save% is down, goals allowed are up and the Blues are really spiraling. And the problems are starting with the goalie, who looks 100% unhinged right now.
  • It was a second line Zucker/Malkin type of game, which was nice to see, they’ve had a few quiet games in a row. The main difference since the Toronto loss, is how fierce and effectively that all four lines are forechecking and aggressively hunting pucks and playing through bodies to get there. When that happens, just about any line can pop in a few goals in a given game

It was a great night for redemption with Kapanen’s hat trick, Rust’s four points, the power play going 2-for-4 (and two seconds away from being 3/4). The worm turned for a lot of those things and all at the same time, which the Pens will be thrilled to see. They’ll be even more thrilled to see a two-day break in the schedule and then another home game on Tuesday, against last place Columbus. The boys of winter have to be feeling good at the moment at 9-2-2 in the last 13 as they stack up a few wins and see some cold areas start to heat up.