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Pens/Preds Recap: Sidney Crosby puts the team on his back, Pens break losing streak

Two goals and three points from Sidney Crosby helps the Pens to a 3-2 win over Nashville

Nashville Predators v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

In the grind of the season, playing a third game in four days and looking to break a four game losing streak, the Penguins were required to dig deep on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Nashville Predators.

Captain Sidney Crosby was leading the way early, taking a very nice pass from Rickard Rakell and finishing 4:58 into the game to give Pittsburgh the game’s first goal.

With it baseball season beginning again, the Pens looked liked they were honoring Derek Bell with an Operation Shutdown of their own, albeit inadvertent and unintended. Pittsburgh only mustered three shots on goal in the opening period and had just four shots close to the game’s halfway point, no forward besides Crosby had a shot on goal.

Since the Pens were doing very little, it put increased pressure on backup goalie Casey DeSmith who got the start. DeSmith was very good for much of the game, but couldn’t do much about a defensive breakdown late in the first that resulted in a Matt Duchene goal late in the first period. After Jason Zucker failed to get the puck deep and turned it over at the blueline, Marcus Pettersson inexplicably failed to prevent a stretch pass that literally somehow went through his stick and to Duchene. Pettersson was then out of position and gave up the breakaway for Duchene. From there, the talented forward was able to out-wait DeSmith and fire the puck into the net on a deke to tie the game at 1.

The game got physical in the second period. Tanner Jeannot rocked Kris Letang with a big, but clean open ice hit. This raised the ire of Mike Matheson who stood up for his teammate and took a bunch of punches to do so. While the Pens had the puck in the offensive zone and Jake Guentzel was trying to pass to Sidney Crosby. Oy.

Jeannot had a hugely visible game and was especially noticeable in the second period. As seen below he got totally robbed by DeSmith on a very athletic stretch of the legs to deny what looked like it was sure to be a goal against.

After the final whistle of the second period, Mark Borowiecki and Evgeni Malkin were tangling a bit. Boro was grabbing at Malkin’s head, which is never appreciated by Geno so he slashed the stick out of Borowiecki’s hands. Both players went to raise their fists and Malkin took advantage of having a stick by dangerously slamming it into Borowiecki’s face. Malkin got a double minor out of all this, lucky it wasn’t more.

Pittsburgh killed off that penalty but Nashville took the lead soon after. Both teams exchanged odd man rushes, one that caught Letang and Matheson in the offensive zone with only Kasperi Kapanen back to defend. Unsurprisingly, the puck soon ended up in the net, after Matheson had one more chance to clear the puck and failed after Nick Cousins stepped up and roofed a shot.

The Pens needed to dig deep and find the equalizer, and they were able to do so. Jason Zucker atones for his earlier mistake and scores his first goal since coming back from injury. 2-2 game.

That Zucker goal would send the game to overtime and earn them a point. Sidney Crosby grabbed his third point in OT and second goal of the game to break the Pens’ losing streak. Nice play by Rakell to set it up and the Pens win 3-2.

Some thoughts

  • Kinda funny how yesterday an early change by Crosby going to the net for Evgeni Malkin ended up being a goal, today Crosby staying out with Rakell to lengthen his shifts led to two goals today.
  • Three points for Crosby and Rakell, they seem to mesh well together. Might not be the worst thing in the world to consider seeing them together more, but when they were on the ice today really good things were happening for the Pens and that is good enough.
  • A big lineup change was moving the struggling Brian Dumoulin off the top pair in favor of Matheson. And, boy, it’s all or nothing for Matheson-Letang. They got caught in the o-zone the first time the Pens played the Preds, and again this game.
  • The TNT broadcast showed coach Mike Sullivan leaning all the way over and giving Jason Zucker a big old bear hug before the start of the third, clearly giving encouragement and a personal touch. It paid off with Zucker’s third period game-tying goal. in the big picture, that could be a really big goal for the Pens this season.
  • Can’t fault Matheson for standing up for Letang, but for a guy doesn’t fight (or hasn’t in four years) to drop gloves with a bigger, strong, NHL leader in fights is...more heart than head. Marcus Pettersson had a better strategy, taking the number of Jeannot and then rocking him with a big hit later in the game.
  • While thinking about Pettersson, plays like the Duchene first goal are exactly why the Pens’ coaches never feel they can trust the defender. That’s just a pass breakup an NHL defender has to make 100 out of 100 times. Pettersson doesn’t bat 1.000 on those plays (second baseball reference of the article, ‘tis the season, huh?)
  • Will Malkin be hearing from the league about his high-stick of Borowiecki? The talking heads seemed to think so. Malkin definitely opened the door for more discipline by using his stick as a weapon. But it wasn’t like Borowiecki, a known tough customer and hard-nosed defender, was about to give Malkin a high-five. Obviously you can’t slam a stick through a guy’s face, but it’s easy to say that when a guy who just hit you in the head is about to hit you again in the head. There’s a reason that situation didn’t happen with...say Roman Josi or Matt Duchene.
  • Today was career game No. 1100 for Crosby and the greatest of his time got points #1398, 1399 and the ol’ 1400 on the OT GWG..Gotta like the round numbers
  • It was one of DeSmith’s better games, especially early on when it looked like the Pens were stuck in quicksand. He had to be really good to give them a chance, and he was. Didn’t really like DeSmith’s last start against Minnesota, but his movement was much more confident-looking and on point and he was not fighting the puck or leaving as many rebounds as last time.