In a battle at the top of the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins jumped ahead early, but it would be Carolina to come out on top in an overtime decision.
The Penguins started the game out right, first Marcus Pettersson kept the puck in the zone by picking off a Martin Necas clearing attempt (which the clip below just misses). Then Sidney Crosby makes a lunging pass back for Pettersson who quickly and smoothly spots and fires a deflection effort that is super easy for Jake Guentzel to guide into the empty net with Antti Raanta scrambling around and out of position. 1-0 Pens just 4:28 into the game.
Fun fact: Jake Guentzel leads Pittsburgh with 35 points (19G-16A) in 26 road games. pic.twitter.com/vcAt2nP3KB— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 5, 2022
After a power play couldn’t get much going, the Pens regrouped and sublime plays by Guentzel and Crosby produced another goal to get Pittsburgh up 2-0. Textboook hockey by Guentzel, opening up his skating in the defensive zone and pushing the puck up ice with a nice saucer pass. Bryan Rust did his job to just stay out of the way and give it back to Guentzel, who reached in and lifted the stick of a defender. Then Guentzel completed the play by dropping a beautiful feed for Crosby. Sid drops to his patented one knee shot and blasts it in. Dynamite skill on display here.
Yup, Guentzel and Crosby just did that pic.twitter.com/drAIucLsUu— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 5, 2022
After a glorious first period controlled by Pittsburgh (shots were 11-10 Hurricanes, but total high danger scoring chances were 10-1 Pens), Carolina reversed course and pushed back big time in the second period, with a 9-2 edge in HDSC to turn the game around.
Former Penguin Jordan Staal got the Canes on the board 4:20 into the second, finding the puck after a scramble pulled Casey DeSmith out of his net.
Carolina continued the charge, playing a lot better in the middle frame, but they would score no more goals in the middle frame. That is because DeSmith was there to match them. DeSmith’s glove was especially locked in, picking out two really, really good shots with dangerous potential, like this one.
Nice little creation from Seth Jarvis here, although DeSmith robs Steven Lorentz to conclude the sequence. pic.twitter.com/98JSMXjTD6— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) March 5, 2022
A back-and-forth third saw both teams driving to the net in a desperate bid to find the all important “next goal”. Carolina got it, with Staal notching his second of the night by tipping an Ethan Bear shot to tie the game at 2 with 10:12 remaining.
After the Pens failed on a power play in the second half of the period, Carolina got their chance for a late game power play with 2:09 left with the Pens getting caught with too many players on the ice.
Pittsburgh was able to hold tight and that sent the game to overtime.
In OT, Kris Letang boiled over and it ended up costing the Pens. Letang got frustrated and kept attacking Trocheck away from the play, eventually the refs had to call it. In the 4v3 OT power play, Carolina controlled the puck, and it was a matter of time until Andrei Svechnikov found a rebound from right in front and chipped it past DeSmith to end the game.
- An interesting matchup thought (perhaps to file away for playoff time) is that Carolina was very interested in matching Staal against the Evgeni Malkin line, taking a more offensive matchup with Sebastian Aho’s top line to go against the Crosby line. Most NHL teams do tend to match top line versus top line, it will be worth following to see if that holds down the line, should these teams match up in a series.
- The Pens were pretty much just changing Malkin on the fly, he only took four faceoffs all game, one of them coming in OT. The overwhelming majority of the draws were handled by Crosby and Jeff Carter.
- It’s only the second game of March, and Jake Guentzel has already matched his February goal total (two), so yep, that one worked out about as expected.
- What a play in that whole sequence on the first goal by Marcus Pettersson. Guentzel was pointing back to credit him practically before the puck was in the net, a worthy acknowledgement of the player who made it all happen. Mentioned this last night, but it’s worth saying again that Pettersson is playing some really fine hockey now, and quickly following his really poor play just last week. It’s a big turnaround, and one the Pens needed with Mike Matheson on the shelf.
- Pens fall to a 19-6-3 record on the road, which is still pretty good, even if this one could have been a win. Aside from Pittsburgh wearing white jerseys and there being a Hurricane logo at center ice, this didn’t feel too much like a road game. Incredible amount of Penguin fans, which is no surprise in that building, but it seemed like more than ever.
- Casey DeSmith had a shutout in a 1-0 game against Anaheim earlier this season, so tonight might not be technically his statistical best performance of the year. But considering how important this game was and how good division-leading Carolina is — tonight could be considered the biggest/best/top/pick the positive superlative game DeSmith has played this season. He was sensational, and after a few big stops you could almost see his confidence growing, enabling him to confidently make more clutch saves as the ‘Canes poured it on him in the second. He gave up three goals, and couldn’t get out with the win, which is a real shame. The backup goalie was great.
- Carolina has the NHL’s best PK this season, and that’s been a real bear for the Pens to deal with. They were 0/2 in this game, and beyond that, the Canes are dangerous in their defensive layers to be able and pounce and go the other way. Pittsburgh’s power play has been red hot lately, but they were pretty well neutralized by the Carolina PK group.
- This game wasn’t quite as physical and nasty as the Tampa game last night, but it wasn’t far off. It’s March and temperatures are rising in more ways than one as we see a fight for the second night in a row when Mark Friedman drops the gloves and bloodies the bridge of the nose on Vincent Trocheck.
- Now that the game is over and emotion is settled, Letang’s conduct in overtime was very costly. He can’t go out of his way to put his team short-handed. Trocheck did give him a little extra shot to the head from behind, but the sequence was over, Letang just has to skate away in that situation. He didn’t, and it cost the team. Playing on the right side of emotion is a lot easier to talk about from a couch or on a keyboard, but that’s just something a veteran (or anyone for that matter but especially a veteran) can’t put his team in that spot.
The end was disappointing for the Pens, based on the first 20 minutes and maybe even the third period, they were on track for a win on the road against the top team. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot and fall four points behind Carolina in the division race (with CAR having one game in hand). Crappy ending, but a lot of fun, intense hockey. If these teams do end up meeting up later this year for a playoff series it could potentially be one of the best and most entertaining exhibitions of the whole NHL season.