Another game and another return for the Penguins from the injured reserve. Today it’s Ryan Poehling who is back int the lineup after missing nine games with an undisclosed upper body injury.
Lined up and ready for our Sunday matinee pic.twitter.com/UjOYb1hsKU— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 22, 2023
The hosting New Jersey Devils are going with the following lineup:
It’s a day game and a very slow start for Pittsburgh. The Penguins must be Taylor Swift fans, ‘cuz they know that all too well. Anyways, after giving up a tremendous chance to Nico Hischier just second into the game, Rickard Rakell barely acknowledges that Jack Hughes has the puck as Hughes blows by him on the right side. Brian Dumoulin’s gap control leaves a lot to be desired and only grows as Hughes slams the breaks and pulls up to give him all the operating room he could need. It’s easy for Hughes to fire in his 30th goal of the season only 56 seconds into the contest.
All Jacked up to start this one! pic.twitter.com/pL36K6G6sK— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 22, 2023
Poehling is welcomed back by New Jersey with a collision along the boards that leaves the forward holding his face. NJ is assessed a high stick, even though there wasn’t really a stick involved. To amend for the bad call, the refs cut the Pens’ power play very short. Rakell’s rough start continues as he’s the one who gets rung up on a holding call.
The 4v4 works to Pittsburgh’s advantage however, Jeff Petry and Sidney Crosby play the puck back and forth and from distance Crosby wires a long-range shot that eludes Vitek Vanecek to tie the game at 1-1.
Ready... Set... LAUNCH THE CROSBY CANNON! pic.twitter.com/uKNd8Q4p42— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 22, 2023
Danton Heinen sets up the New Jersey native Drew O’Connor for a really nice scoring chance but the shot misses the net.
Not much more going on. The Devils were stunted by the loss of captain Hischier to an injury. Hischier only took three shifts in the first period, left the bench and missed the last 14 minutes of the period. Mark Friedman threw an awkward hit to the midsection that initially started the discomfort for the Devils’ captain who then got knocked over by Rakell for good measure. Big loss and missing a top center caused mayhem through the rest of the lineup.
Shots in the first period were 8-6 NJ. Fairly even and surprisingly enough a low-event start to this game.
Hischier is back for the opening faceoff for the second period, which is nice to see.
Great job this period by holding the puck in the NJ zone and working to generate chances. Vanecek was good but tested constantly.
Pittsburgh keeps up the pressure and Damon Severson takes a minor for high-sticking with 30 seconds left.
Shots in the second period are 11-2 for the Pens. It was a very impressive period in terms of them owning the puck and controlling play for very long stretches. Pittsburgh was able to pin NJ in their own end, wear them down and make them chase the puck and the play.
Unfortunately, despite the advantages, the Penguins didn’t make anything out of it in the middle frame, but should have some confidence and momentum moving to the third period with a 1-1 game on the road against a quality club.
The Pens start with 90 seconds of a carryover power play, but fail to score.
After it’s over, Poehling gets one of the most glorious chances with a wide open cage and the puck on his stick — but his shot hits Vancek’s arm and then bounces to the top of the cross-bar and stays out of the net.
Great scrambling effort by Vanecek to not quit on the play and dive back to try and take up as much of the net as he could. As it turned out, he did enough to deny what could have been an easy goal.
The third period plays out like the first two- no goals but some end-to-end play. Both teams look like they are making a concerted effort to get more bodies and pucks to the net, bumping over both goalies at different points (sometimes even by their own defenders).
No penalties or power plays in the third, shots are about even (12-10 NJD this period, the first one that they’ve had an advantage there) but no one scores.
The Devils have the puck for most of the first 1:30 of OT, as soon as the Pens touch the puck with Bryan Rust on the right side, Marcus Pettersson is too eager on his line change. Rust feeds Pettersson and he actually scores what would have been his first goal of the season...Except the refs notice that Pettersson jumped on the ice when Petry was about 25 feet from the bench. Guess they kinda see and frown upon those things. No goal for the Pens, and a power play for the Devils due to the too many men.
The Devils end it on the ensuing power play. They work the puck around and Dougie Hamilton shoots a one-timer from the left side back over to his right past Jarry. Game over.
- Love how active P.O. Joseph is to use his legs and jump in the play. It’s always noticeable and adds to the attack. Do not love how the guy just can’t get pucks on the net. All four of Joseph’s shot attempts today didn’t make it; three were blocked by NJ players, the fourth missed the target. Naturally, defensemen see their shots blocked at a higher rate than forwards, but seeing players like Petry that can actually get their shots through makes that observation stand out when others like Joseph can’t.
- The Pens take the L, but there’s not a lot of shame in it this time. The result wasn’t preferable, but they played really well in this game — probably better than they did in some of their wins last week. Just couldn’t beat Vanecek enough when they had some really good looks in the second period and also in the third. The lack of finish has hurt them before and only generating one goal isn’t ideal, but everything else went right.
- For instance, I would have guessed way over 22 NJD shots on goal in regulation. It was a very much improved and impressive defensive effort for Pittsburgh, especially compared to the porous and quite frankly just plain poor team defense in recent games against Ottawa. The Pens were good in that area, often suppressing by just controlling the puck and keeping it away from Jarry. They owed him one after the 46 saves or whatever he had on Friday night for them.
- Would have been great if Poehling scored in the first game back, it can’t just be the same five players scoring over and over for a team to be successful. In the last 10 games Crosby, Zucker, Rakell, Guentzel and Malkin have combined for 21 goals. All other forwards have scored five total goals in 70 combined man-games played (and two of them came from the much-maligned Jeff Carter). Poehling will upgrade the depth of the centers and provide more than a fringe NHL/AHL player like Jonathan Gruden, but this is also a reminder that Poehling and Josh Archibald alone are not the solution to what ails the Pens’ lower lines.
- The Pens’ OT woes continue, falling to 2-8 now in games decided during the overtime period (they’re 1-0 in a game that went to the shootout). This OT was ugly, literally the only time they touched the puck they were also in comical violation of the rules. Not even close to playing 3v3 OT very well right now. Good news is they don’t have that in the playoffs, the bad news is Pittsburgh is leaving a ton of points on the table during the season that will make their playoff path a lot tougher.
Up next is a home game against Florida on Tuesday. Though a little disjointed, the Pens will look to keep a four-game point streak (2-0-2) going and keep picking up points for the standings.