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Pens/Sens Recap: Pittsburgh lucky to get something out of Ottawa

It was not a pretty night, the Penguins give up four goals while short-handed, but Rickard Rakell’s third period goal earns Pittsburgh a point before they lose in OT to the Ottawa Senators.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images


No new returns from injury for the Penguins on this night, using the same lines, lineup and goalie as last game.

The pre-game news is much better for the host Senators. Center Josh Norris is back in the lineup for the first time since late October.

First period

Tough start for Pittsburgh when Jason Zucker heads straight to the penalty box in the first minute on a somewhat questionable holding call. The Penguins kill it off though.

After some end-to-end action at either side of the ice, it’s Cam Talbot who makes a mistake and Zucker is there to take advantage of it. Evgeni Malkin passes back to the point for Marcus Pettersson and Pettersson gets a shot on net. Talbot waves his arm at it, but the puck windmills out of his glove. Zucker is Johnny on the spot (Jason on the spot?) and pokes in the freebie. 1-0 Pens.

On the next shift, some bad luck when Jeff Carter lifts the stick of Derick Brassard and ends up cutting him on the nose, drawing blood and a four minute penalty. It only takes 35 seconds for Alex DeBrincat to even the game at 1-1.

Ottawa makes Carter’s penalty doubly painful by scoring on the second power play as well. Tim Stutzle has plenty of room to operate after skating around Sidney Crosby and blows a shot by DeSmith to put the Sens up 2-1.

Right after that, Austin Watson dumps Mark Friedman and the Penguins get their first power play opportunity. Unlike Ottawa’s pair, it is unsuccessful.

Norris crunches Malkin into the boards and it draws another penalty. Malkin stays down for a short amount of time but gathers himself and stays on the ice for the power play. Then Malkin is tripped entering the zone and the Pens get 1:07 worth of a 5v3. Ottawa kills the first one, but the Pens’ big dogs stay on the ice and eventually it’s Malkin getting a goal that he richly earned after drawing two penalties.

Friedman and DeBrincat get into a post-whistle scrum and even though Friedman’s helmet came off and he took a punch or two, it’s the Penguin who is the lone player that ends up in the penalty box. The Pens kill this one off.

Overall shots are 18-11 Ottawa at the first break, a stat that is misleading due to the power play time. 5v5 shots were 9-6 OTT.

Second period

Talbot’s leaky glove lets him down again, and gets Mark Friedman on the board for his first goal and point of the season. Friedman shoots a hard shot from distance and Talbot can’t catch it so the net does. 3-2 Pens are back out in front 3:07 into the middle frame.

Ottawa pushes back, Travis Hamonic hits the post very loudly with a slapshot and Thomas Chabot steps up for a clean look that DeSmith makes a great save on. All that pressure and a great shift against Pittsburgh’s fourth line forces Kasperi Kapanen to take a hooking penalty. The Sens strike for a third power play goal, Brady Tkachuk gets to a rebound and slides a pass over for Drake Batherson to finish. 3-3 game.

Malkin bear hugs Tkachuk and goes off to the box for another Ottawa power play. Pittsburgh kills this one, but late in the period take yet another penalty, with Bryan Rust going off for four minutes due to a tripping call and then an unsportsmanlike tacked on for arguing it too much.

Shots are 11-3 in the second period overall (and 9-3 at 5v5), not the best for Pittsburgh who couldn’t stay out of the box and didn’t have the puck very often at all.

Third period

The Penguins start the third staring down 3:19 of carryover power-play time for Ottawa, but are able to temporarily avoid giving up a fourth PPG to Ottawa.

More dogged efforts by Zucker at the end of a long shift draws a penalty on the Senators. But then Pittsburgh evens it up with P.O. Joseph giving a cross-check while defending on the rush. The Sens score when a couple of nice passes puts Shane Pinto in against Brian Dumoulin and a quick shot burns through the defender and goalie. 4-3 Ottawa is in front.

Pittsburgh gets another crack at the power play when Ottawa is caught with two many men on the ice. The Pens finish it off, with Crosby feeding Rickard Rakell, who spins and fires on net. Somehow it leaks through Talbot who is having a terrible night but hardly being tested. 4-4 with 7:25 remaining.

The first line finally comes to life, but Jake Guentzel’s shot hits iron.

Pittsburgh is pretty fortunate this game gets to OT.


Brady Tkachuk mercifully ends the game somewhat early in OT on the rush. Ottawa switches and Pettersson’s gap control has the rare glitch with Tkachuk getting the shot back across on DeSmith. 5-4 Ottawa wins.

Some thoughts

  • Guess how many goals Zucker has this season? It’s 12. Feels like he’s had more, doesn’t it? He has scored six goals in the last 10 games, in a groove of playing very hard, being around the net and is getting rewarded for it.
  • The skilled players threw out a 2+ minute shift on that ended with Malkin’s goal in the first period (Malkin himself was at a whopper of a 2:35 shift, since he was out there prior to the power play). They didn’t change due to getting a 5v3 and then having a lot of zone time, but it almost looked like Malkin was going to pull one of those “Alex Kovalev with NYR taking a 5 minute shift” and stay on the ice until he scored a goal. As the emphatically demonstrable goal celebration showed, Geno was not intending to go to the bench until he tied the game.
  • That Stutzle can skate like the wind, one of the prettier strides around. This is his third NHL season and he recently turned 21-years old, but due to scheduling this was only his fourth career game against Pittsburgh.
  • Shortly before Ottawa scored to tie the game at 3, Jeff Carter had a short-handed 2-on-1. He fanned on the shot, Pittsburgh wouldn’t touch the puck again until it was in their net. He’s at the stage where even the automatic moves for NHL players like shooting on the move or sometimes receiving a pass is becoming noticeable as not automatic any longer. It’s tough to watch the fall-off in real time when he’s handling the puck, or doing anything but taking faceoffs (did win nine out of 12).
  • The Penguin blueliners had some good moments in the offensive zone, but defensively this team is a mess with the personnel they have. Worth repeating for every game but it’s always a struggle and uphill battle with a group so depleted.
  • A bit of a ref show tonight. Maybe more than a bit. A lot of the penalties were legit and had to be called, but only taking Friedman in the first and then ringing Rust up for an extra two seemed unnecessary and unbalanced officiating. Even Sportsnet on the Ottawa home broadcast felt the Joseph cross-check was a bad call. That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, but rare and it stands out to see the Penguins go to the penalty box so often and much more than normal.
  • If Cam Talbot provided anything resembling competent goaltending tonight, this would have been an Ottawa regulation win. Easily. So hey, in that vein, the Pens get a point in the standings in this rough stretch isn’t the worst thing in the world.
  • The Pens’ PK gave up four goals tonight, and six in the last two games. For this game, that’s probably more of a function of all the opportunities more than any other factor (plus, gotta give the Sens credit, they have a lot of skill in that area). But it’s also hard not to notice the Brian Dumoulin - Chad Ruhwedel duo out for three of the goals. Tough times.
  • Without so much, the default goes back to “gotta have the big stars come through”. Malkin and Crosby each had three points, though were spotty and dormant for long stretches (all that PK time doesn’t allow much getting in a groove). Rakell scored, Zucker was a horse per usual. Lots of good stuff there. Guentzel’s late post shot in regulation was ** that close ** to potentially making him the hero, but it just didn’t go.

The best thing about this game is that it’s over. Nothing is easy right now for the Pens with the lineups they have these days, but on the bright side we’re all that much closer to seeing more capable players coming back.