After a long break, the Penguins were looking to get back to their winning ways as the tight shuffle for playoff positioning continues. Thanks in large part to Jake Guentzel and Casey DeSmith, they were able to do just that with a 4-0 win over the visiting Boston Bruins.
The top line for Pittsburgh caught the Bruins on a line change for the game’s opening goal in the first period. In the blink of an eye in transition the puck went from Mike Matheson to Rickard Rakell to Sidney Crosby and finally in for Jake Guentzel. Guentzel took advantage of Boston out of position and forward Charlie Coyle was all that was left to defend him. Coyle was no match for Guentzel’s deke and a quick shot that beat Jeremy Swayman low.
Boston would respond with a much better start in the second period, but it would be Jason Zucker who scored on the Pens’ first shot of the second, which took until the 6:10 mark. The breakout again was effective with a long stretch pass from John Marino was expertly bumped over by Jeff Carter to spring Zucker into open ice. Zucker ripped a shot high on Swayman to push Pittsburgh up by a 2-0 margin.
Quick play. Quick hands. Quick 2-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/gaRgBjN25u— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 22, 2022
The Pens kept at it and made the score 3-0. Kris Letang did well to recover an errant Boston clearing attempt, then curl and drag around a defender and wire a nice cross-ice pass to Guentzel. With the Bruins down and out, Guentzel fired the puck in for a fairly easy finish for him for goal number 39 of the season.
With this goal, Jake Guentzel hits the 80-point plateau for the first time in his career.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 22, 2022
Since 2005.06, only Sidney Crosby (11x) Evgeni Malkin (5x), and Phil Kessel (2x) have accomplished this feat. pic.twitter.com/wulUEoRHkk
That was more than enough goal support for Casey DeSmith, who stood tall and racked up a ton of saves in this game. 52 of them, to be exact. DeSmith sealed off the net well and earned his third shutout of the season.
Guentzel would achieve the 40-goal milestone on the season when he cashed in on the empty net late to set the score as a 4-0 win.
- The first line’s talent was on display. It looked like earlier in the month when Crosby and Guentzel put it on themselves to break the Pens out of their slump. They were shooting, assertive and were the best two players on the ice in this game. When #87 and #59 are on, the Pens are tough to beat.
- There was a full two minutes on the power play involved, but Kris Letang played 10:05 in the first period. It’s officially big boy hockey season now. Turns out the best way to fix the defense might be the old fashioned answer, just play the best players as much as humanely possible.
- It was another instance where Pittsburgh started great, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect it to the same degree. In the first, they basically gave Boston very little (10 shots, seven scoring chances, 0.37 xGF) and the Pens had a great power play (Guentzel hit a post) and the Pens’ top line was buzzing. But they only left for the first intermission 1-0. Didn’t come back to bite them this game, but a fast start wasn’t fully rewarded until late.
- As to be expected, the Bruins would have a response in the second period, where they got the first nine shots of the second and had the Pens pinned in their own end more in the first five or six minutes of the second period more then the whole first combined.
- You can tell the playoffs are close, the fine details are starting to emerge. The Pens were better in this game than on Saturday in a lot of areas, one of them dumping the puck in deep when they didn’t have much going on.
- Another little play that speaks volume, late in a shift in the third period in a 3-0 game, Crosby was the third player back on a developing 2-on-2 Boston rush. He could have peeled off and changed, he didn’t and followed behind the play, eventually getting to control the shot that went wide and helping regain the puck going back in the offensive zone before leaving. If this was game #8 or #28 maybe he changes and maybe that loose puck hurts the Pens. But in Game #78, it’s getting time to be on every detail.
- It’s nice that Carter and Zucker combined for a goal, but they were again getting crushed in the shots against department and generating little for themselves. Evgeni Malkin coming back for next game is a great thing.
- In a lot of ways, rest and a few days off made a world of difference for Pittsburgh. They played a ton of hockey, and showed it at times down the stretch. Of course, today kicks off three games in four days and four games in six, another tough go with travel and day games ahead. Such is life in the NHL, but it was certainly noticeable to see the difference a few days off makes.
- It was a great game for Casey DeSmith. On one hand, Boston is a very offensively impotent team right now. Their power play hasn’t scored since the sixth grade picnic. By far their best shooter in David Pastranak is out. But DeSmith was very good in this one just the same, doing what was needed.
- The defensive effort was tremendous by the skaters too, they kept Boston out of the traditional high scoring areas (just six high danger scoring chances), were quick to block shots (14) and make diving efforts to knock the puck away from danger when necessary. DeSmith did the rest by stopping everything that made it to him. It looked like the B’s strategy was just put as many shots on net as possible, hope for rebounds and mayhem and it didn’t work.
- Pretty wild that the 52-save shutout marks a Penguin franchise record. Who woulda guessed? Well earned in this one by the current starting goalie.
Very satisfying win for the Pens, who prove for one night at least that they can get the job done against a quality opponent and in a convincing way. The weekend awaits with two afternoon road games.