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Penguins/Avalanche Recap: Colorado’s quick answers stymie Pittsburgh

In a very entertaining game, Colorado found a way to get quick answers after the Penguins scored both their goals, and it served as the difference for the game

Pittsburgh Penguins v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins and Colorado Avalanche got a national television slot on Saturday afternoon, and they didn’t disappoint for viewers who got to see two of the most talented teams in the league put on an exciting game.

There was no score for the first half of the game, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t much action. Both teams were playing at a very fast game and testing the other with numerous chances. Pittsburgh held a 17-11 edge in shots in the first period, perhaps highlighted by a breakaway for Evan Rodrigues that goalie Darcy Kuemper stopped.

The Avs would open the scoring at the halfway point when a blast by Andre Burakovsky hit the glove of Tristan Jarry and bounced free. Forward Mikko Rantanen also freed himself from Mike Matheson in front and smacked the rebound out of mid-air.

The Pens almost tied the game off a glorious chance from the first line. An intense forecheck by Bryan Rust caused a Colorado defender to go weakly up the middle of the ice, which Jake Guentzel stepped in front of and took in alone. Guentzel beat Kuemper with a deke to the backhand and had an empty net and....Just didn’t score, somehow whiffing on the backhand. That’s one you think he would bury 10/10 times. 9/10, apparently.

The equalizing goal comes from Sidney Crosby instead. Kuemper leaves a rebound and Crosby out-foxes Cale Makar in front of the net to chop in a goal and tie the game at 1.

The tie only lasted 20 seconds, however, with Nicolas Kube-Aubel stepping into a slapshot on a bit of a broken play coming off the rush that rocketed in and out of the net quickly.

With about six minutes left, Tristan Jarry makes an absolutely amazing save on Nathan MacKinnon to keep the Pens alive. They take advantage of the gift when Kuemper leaves a bad rebound and Guentzel quickly moves the puck over to Mike Matheson. Matheson scores at a sharp angle with 4:53 left.

However, the Avs score yet again on the very next shift. The Pens get pulled out of their defensive structure a bit, and defenseman Devon Toews has snuck way down to the doorstep. After a MacKinnon shot goes way wide, it bounces hard off the back wall and right to Toews for a quick answer to re-establish Colorado’s lead at 3-2 with 4:26 left.

The shift following that, the action continued with Darren Helm taking down Matheson. Pittsburgh would take the game’s first and only power play with about 4 minutes left. Nothing came of it and with about 1:30 left, the Pens pulled Jarry for the extra skater. But they couldn’t find a way to tie the game again before time ran out.

Some thoughts

  • Fun game. Only one penalty, no real hostility after the whistles and unlike Thursday the refs were letting the players play hard. Just a lot of action all over the ice, fast pace, good goaltending, wise choice to put on national TV.
  • Still can’t believe Guentzel, of all players, didn’t score on that wide open net. It was that kind of game for Guentzel, who suffered two broken sticks as well. He still rebounded with a pair of assists and didn’t play poorly, but jeez, that missed goal has to sting.
  • One reason the Avs are the league’s top team: they’ve scored the game’s first goal 44 times, as they did today. The Pens have 36, for comparison. Colorado now has a 37-2-4 record when scoring first. It’s a lot easier to play when ahead. Both teams traded a pair of goals, the difference was Colorado struck first to always be playing from in front today.
  • With the loss of Zucker to injury, Mike Sullivan went with Jeff Carter up with the Evgeni Malkin+Rickard Rakell. Can’t say that seemed like it worked very well, Malkin and Rakell had their quietest game in a while and were on ice for two goals against.
  • Artturi Lehkonen and Val Nichushkin are going to be a problem for the West in the playoffs this spring. They’re on the same line right now, both are incredibly noticeable players with their skill and keeping the puck moving in the right way. That line was up against the Malkin line a lot and also a big reason why it was a down game for the Pens’ second line (Malkin was on ice for 2 Corsi for and 12 against today vs both of those players).
  • Also scary to think the Avs didn’t have the services of their leading scorer Nazem Kadri today. That could be big if he is out again in a few days for the rematch in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. And they will be getting captain Gabriel Landeskog too, plus have a couple of defenders out. Really stacked lineup in the Rocky Mountains these days.
  • At time both teams had trouble with the other’s forecheck. The forwards on both teams were getting north FAST, and sometimes that resulted in chances on the rush. Sometimes with issues, that meant turnovers if the defender’s couldn’t manage the breakout.
  • Pretty even game, 5v5 stats were shots 39-38 (PIT); scoring chances 30-26 (PIT), high danger chances 12 a piece.

Tough result for the Pens, who hung right in there against the NHL’s best team and best home team but came up one goal short. Both of these teams will run it back again on Tuesday, which will give a great opportunity for Pittsburgh to test themselves again and try to get this one back.