In the second to last game of the season, the Penguins got a taste of their own medicine over the last 17 seasons when this time it was them who ran into an unstoppable star center. Connor McDavid stole the show Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, putting up a goal and three assists in an effort that likely will send him towards his fourth scoring title in his seventh NHL season.
The Pens had no answer for McDavid, who deked, danced, passed and shot all around and through them. Usually that’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin doing that to other times.
In the words of Michael Scott, “well, well, well..how the turntables have turned.”
Edmonton got the first goal of the game in the first period. Connor McDavid passed the puck out and Evan Bouchard was allowed plenty of room to pick a shot and blow it by Casey DeSmith, who also had some traffic in front to deal with.
The Oilers would appear to make it 2-0 when Bouchard again beat DeSmith but — not so fast my friend — Edmonton was a hair off-side, which is a hair too much to get by when you play the Penguins and their excellent video team. After a review, the call on the ice is reversed.
The Penguins seemed to thrive and take some momentum off that swing, and Teddy Blueger drew a penalty. After a frustrating shift by the top players, the second group scored just after the penalty expired. Mike Matheson fired a heavy shot that went wide, but the rebound took a fortuitous bounce off the back wall to the stick of Jeff Carter, who was able to slam the gift home and tie the game at 1-1.
The Penguins' power play may have ended, but Jeff Carter made a power play of his own. pic.twitter.com/OTKGawBhbh— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 27, 2022
The hard-earned tie lasted only 25 seconds, as the Oilers scored in response on the following shift. McDavid walked right around the defending Brock McGinn and centered a pass for Kailer Yamamoto. Yamamoto dished it off one more time for Evander Kane, who used all that movement to quickly snap a shot home and push Edmonton back in front.
Early in the third, the Oilers start to pull away. Mike Matheson was forced to take a penalty after an extended shift trapped in his own zone, and it didn’t take long for Edmonton to cash in. A shot from beyond was stopped by DeSmith but a juicy rebound was out there for Zach Hyman to knock in and extend the lead to 3-1.
The Oilers got more insurance on a power play after Bryan Rust was sent off for hooking. Connor McDavid wheeled around Carter and the offensive zone with impunity and sniped DeSmith upstairs. Oy. MVP caliber play with the skating but there was plenty to shoot at upstairs. 4-1.
A last gasp effort happened when the Pens got a power play with 5:54, and they pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4 edge, because why not? However, like most the game, it was not a very good power play and nothing was created out of it.
Goalie Mike Smith darn near almost scored a goal, flipping the puck all the way down. It looked like it was on target for the longest time but just rolled wide. Former Penguin Derrick Brassard would tack on that empty netter a little later to set the final score at 5-1, but the Pens took that away again with an official review for being off-side.
Zach Kassian, however, finally scores on the empty net and was even onside this time.
- Early on there was an unreal pace of play and non-stop action. There were only 11 faceoffs in the first period (and also account for that figure including faceoffs at the start of the game, after a goal and following two penalties). Usually in the NHL if there’s one faceoff per minute, that’s about average. To almost half that really speaks to how brisk the action was, and outside of automatic whistles (like penalties or goals) there were very, very few stoppages. Makes for a fun product.
- The Pens are now 7-for-7 in successfully challenging goals this season after adding two more tonight. Most if not all of them where the other team was off-side. Andy Saucier and his team in the video booth are just so on point and monitoring the play as it goes. Can’t sneak anything by those guys, even when they’re down big and it’s an empty net goal.
- Jason Zucker left the game in the first period after only taking five shifts and playing 3:49, he wouldn’t return. Zucker had possession of the puck and looked to be skating kinda wonky and in an uncomfortable manner. Zucker dumped the puck in the zone and pulled up back to the bench, not to be seen again. Whatever is going on, his abdomen/core/whatever situation he’s been dealing with for five+ months sure doesn’t look like it’s resolved, but we shall see how his newest recovery process will go.
- After the Pens’ first goal, they had a hodgepodge line of players who don’t play power play (Heinen-Blueger-McGinn, Dumoulin-Marino) and the Oilers had their first line. The Pens players didn’t look like they knew what they were doing, and Dumoulin couldn’t cover the front of the net and then also the backdoor play. This might be a fair observation or might not be very fair, but it sure feels like that was the type of play and lateral movement he could have made a few years ago, but isn’t making very often these days.
- Edmonton is fast, and plays very aggressively under their new coach. They could be a problem out West in the playoffs. They dominated the Pens tonight, but they’re 11-2-1 in the last 14 games, this isn’t an unusual performance. Based on the format, it couldn’t happen until the third round this year but how about a potential Colorado/Edmonton, Nate MacKinnon vs. McDavid playoff battle? Sign me up for that, post haste!
- If Mike Smith has found the fountain of youth a long playoff run might happen. He was great at stopping the puck and has been red hot all month. Some of the Pens’ best chances seemed to come off Smith’s self-inflicted mistakes of when playing the puck went wrong, so he’s got to buckle down on that.
- Matheson’s penalty came after a 1:34 shift where he and partner Chad Ruhwedel were hemmed in their own end. Edmonton didn’t get a ton of looks or scoring chances or shots or expected goals, but the amount of time that when the Pens are pinned in their own end, it often seems like the #2-#5 pairing is out there more often than not.
- One goal and three assists for McDavid on the night and just a masterful performance by him. McDavid skates as if he has a turbo button on a video game pressed permanently down compared to everyone else’s normal speed. It’s quite the sight to witness. Not too many players are worth the price of admission, but McDavid fits the bill.
- With the Oilers striking twice on the power play tonight, DeSmith is up to 12 power play goals allowed in 25 games this season. Tristan Jarry has only allowed 18 goals while short-handed in 58 games this season. With the goalie being the most important PK’er and all, the Pens really do not have a top-2 or top-3 penalty group in the league while Jarry is out injured.
- Luckily (I guess?) this loss for the Pens doesn’t really hurt in playoff standings with Washington also losing tonight, 4-1 to NYI. Though, suppose with the Caps having a game in hand, perhaps it’s a missed opportunity, but no-showing the Flyers game on Sunday was way worse than not being able to keep up with Connor McDavid today.
Tough game for the Pens to handle, they wanted to build up momentum for the playoffs, but the force known as Connor McDavid pretty much stopped Pittsburgh in their tracks. That’s occasionally going to happen, but with a guaranteed meeting against the NY Rangers or Florida Panthers coming into focus, just how the Pens are going to handle skill and speed and a team that might be better them is looming large at the end of the regular season. They just got blasted off the ice by one tonight.