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Recap: Malkin explodes for four points, Penguins rally to defeat Canucks

The Penguins fall down 3-0, but never fear- Evgeni Malkin is here! Malkin’s two goals and two assist helps fuel Pittsburgh to five unanswered goals and a 5-4 victory

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Vancouver Canucks v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images


The Penguins personnel is similar as it’s been for a while, with a slight change for Drew O’Connor bumping up to Jeff Carter’s line and Danton Heinen dropping down.

First period

The Canucks get on the board first, goalie Spencer Martin makes a nice save on Teddy Blueger and the puck goes the other way on a rush. Conor Garland makes a nice inside-out move that leaves P.O. Joseph in the lurch and then Garland lifts a puck over the shoulder of Casey DeSmith. 1-0 Vancouver only 4:46 into the game.

The Canucks strike again 1:54 later. DeSmith leaves a rebound from a shot from an angle in the middle of the ice and Brock Boeser is the one who finds the loose puck. Boeser makes a nice deke to his backhand and scores. 2-0 and the Pens are left wondering what happened.

The Pens are saved for a bit by the first TV timeout, but on the immediate d-zone faceoff for PIttsburgh, Elias Pettersson beats Sidney Crosby on it. Quinn Hughes floats a shot in from the point, there’s some traffic in front but DeSmith just isn’t having it tonight. 3-0 Canucks.

Pittsburgh pulls DeSmith after giving up three goals on seven shots and backup Dustin Tokarski is set to make his Pittsburgh debut.

Soon after, the Pens earn the game’s first power play and the first group does well and draws another penalty to give Pittsburgh 1:02 worth of a 5v3 advantage. This time Crosby wins the faceoff and it’s quickly hammered in to the net by Evgeni Malkin. 3-1, the Pens are on the board.

Pittsburgh can’t score on the additional power play, but continue to get the better of the play. Rickard Rakell slings a puck to the net but it only catches iron.

The Pens keep the pressure up, a dominant shift by the first line results in the Canucks breaking down. Very nice look by Brian Dumoulin to pass back to Sidney Crosby, who has an easy tap-in goal. It’s 3-2, still in the first period and officially a shootout at the OK Corral tonight.

The Pens find a way to climb out of their early hole. Malkin wins an o-zone faceoff to Jason Zucker sitting back in the “James Neal” slot and Zucker fires a rolling puck off the post and in. 3-3 already and this game is smokin’ that stuff that Aaron Rodgers allegedly does in the off-season. And there’s still 3:30 left.

Because not enough has happened, Crosby takes a hooking penalty to give the Canucks their first power play of the night. The Pens kill it off successfully.

Shots in the first are 20-10 Pittsburgh. Yowzers. This one wasn’t short on action, but was short on goalies making stops.

Second period

The second settles down, not much action until Joseph gets his stick up and goes to the penalty box for a double minor, granting the second VAN power play of the game. It’s partially negated when Pettersson sends Dumoulin into the boards.

On the 4v4, Jan Rutta does well to harass a Canuck, helping to allow Malkin to steal the puck at the blueline. Zucker and Malkin hook up for Malkin’s second goal of the game to give the Pens their first lead of the evening at 4-3.

The first line does their thing and Vancouver has to hook Bryan Rust to keep the puck out of the net in a scramble. Tokarski is called upon to again stone E. Pettersson on another breakaway, and shortly after, Rakell finds the rebound of a Malkin shot and slams it home. 5-3 Pens. Wow.

Pittsburgh gets rung up for too many men on the ice, giving Vancouver a chance to stay close. The Pens are aggressive on it, perhaps too much so when Brock McGinn accidentally trips a Canuck in the o-zone. That leads to a 36 second 5v3, which Vancouver prepares for by taking a timeout.

Shots in the second period settle down to being just 7-5 in favor of the Pens, who break the tie with two goals and set themselves up for the third.

Third period

The Pens get another power play and look really good but can’t punch it in. They keep the pressure up and McGinn draws them another power play when he’s high-sticked in front. It does not look as sharp but takes two more minutes off the clock at least.

Vancouver is back to even and Travis Dermott scores following a shot kicking off the end boards before Tokarski could stretch over and keep the puck from going over the line. 5-4 Pens with still 7:08 to go.

With two minutes left the Canucks pull Martin, but for the first time all night, no one can seem to score. Clock expires and the Pens skate off with a 5-4 victory.

Some thoughts

  • DeSmith gives his team a chance to win more often than not (it’s why he’s carved out a long NHL stint in Pittsburgh) but he was brutal in this game. The opening goal was one a 6’3 or 6’4 goalie might naturally have stopped and it was all downhill from there. After the second goal it would seem early to change goalies or use a timeout, but it was obvious that was considered. They gave him a shot to stabilize things, but DeSmith was simply incapable of keeping the puck out of the net tonight.
  • The first shot Tokarski saw and save he made as a Penguin was a breakaway by Elias Pettersson while the Pens’ were on the power play. Hey dude, welcome to Pittsburgh lol.
  • The stinging irony in that joke aside, it was a monster save by Tokarski to keep the game at 3-1. You kinda got the sense the Pens could make a run at a comeback, but if the score moves to 4-1 so quickly after Pittsburgh got on the board, all their momentum could have evaporated. But it didn’t, because Tokarski came in cold and made a huge stop.
  • And then another Tokarski stop to keep the game a 4-3 Pens lead in the second period quickly materializes for the opportunity for his team to make it 5-3 instead. Big turning points and positive influence from the goaltending, just from an unexpected source from the beginning of the night.
  • Going down 3-0 tonight was definitely not the same as, say, going down 3-0 two games ago to Vegas. (Though the frequency of such occurrences is certainly very ominous). The Pens were down on the scoreboard, but never really out-played. And Vancouver (unlike a first place Vegas team) had no defensive structure to speak of, no one using their sticks defensively, just seemed to be content to allow the Pens to shell their goalie. Multi-goal leads in the NHL these days have never had less potency, and there was another prime example of that.
  • And that was led by the top players. Every shift for the Crosby line or Malkin line was a scoring chance waiting to happen. Both of those lines are in tremendous form.
  • After getting crossed up by Conor Garland on the game opening goal, P.O Joseph only got two shifts in the remaining 15:14 of the first period. Rookies are never without bumps in the road and progress isn’t always a steady line slowly moving up, chalk this one up to some growing pains. But also keep it in mind for why Joseph’s limit at the moment is as a shielded, low-minute defender.
  • Andrei Kuzmenko is taping the blade of his stick all funky like Malkin does. Trend setter?
  • Two goals and two primary assists for Malkin, who was popping off all night long. Pretty fitting on a game of wild swings and emotions, which Penguin thrives and performs best in that type of game? Malkin, of course.
  • Special teams helped tip the balance of this game, as they do so many. The Pens’ power play was 2/5, their PK was a perfect 5/5.

Just another fun night for the Pens, eh? Lots of action, some questionable goaltending all around, but Pittsburgh takes a needed win and now gets a few days to regroup before their January schedule really kicks up on Friday.