clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Recap: Guentzel scores twice as Penguins end their losing streak

The Penguins beat the Coyotes 4-1, and end their six game losing streak. Jake Guentzel scores twice to break a drought of his own

Pittsburgh Penguins v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images


The Penguins roll into Arizona with the same lineup and lines as their last game.

First period

Not a great start for Pittsburgh, Marcus Pettersson takes a penalty 56 seconds into the game but the Pens kill it off.

It’s Arizona that gets on the board first, the lines cycle through the Coyotes’ best skill player in Clayton Keller ends up on the ice as the same time as the Pens’ fourth line and third defensive pair. Drew O’Connor loses the puck, Teddy Blueger tries to help clean up, but Blueger’s whack at the puck ends up putting it right on the stick of Keller. Keller is able to saucer a pass over Chad Ruhwedel and Barrett Hayton makes a low-key difficult play at the back door to knock a puck out of the air into the net past Casey DeSmith. 1-0 AZ just 5:17 into the contest.

The Pens generate a couple of chances, on one Jason Zucker had a chance to go the net if he wanted it on a 2-on-1 but attempts to pass over to a well-covered Evgeni Malkin and it was broken up...A little later Jake Guentzel sprung Sidney Crosby for a breakaway but Arizona’s Karel Vejmelka was there to make the save.

A good shift by the Pittsburgh second line draws a penalty. It goes really poorly.

After the power play ends and in the last minute of the period, the Pens gamble with a rare sighting of the Guentzel-Crosby-Malkin line but they turn the puck over and Guentzel has to take a slashing penalty while backchecking on Arizona’s rush up the ice.

Shots in the first period are 9-8 Pittsburgh. As usual for the losing streak, the Pens looked just fine for 95% of the period or maybe more. But a breakdown ends up in their net and they can’t answer with anything of their own, so the Coyotes take a 1-0 lead into the first break.

Second period

In the carryover of the Guentzel penalty, Keller almost finds Hayton on the back door again, but Brock McGinn makes a saving defensive play to swat it away and Pittsburgh kills the rest of it off.

Soon after, the Pens find an equalizer. Malkin has a really good look from in front but his shot isn’t true. The first line picks it up, Crosby finds a loose puck and quickly passes over to an open Guentzel who is able to break his eight-game goal drought by coolly slamming the puck by Vejmelka. 1-1 game.

The lines cycle back through, and the next time the first line gets out there, they score again. Bryan Rust makes a great pass down to Guentzel near where he scored his first goal to the right side of the net. Sensing the quick shot, Vejmelka slides too far in his splits and loses his net. Guentzel can’t get the handle on the puck to fire immediately, but it’s just as well, since the goalie is scrambling and Guentzel is in a spot where he can slide the puck right back into the empty cage. 2-1 Pens.

Pittsburgh gets a big chance to break the game open when Brian Dumoulin is left slightly bleeding from a stick to the chops, drawing a four minute penalty. Guentzel gets another look from the right side but shoots wide and the Pens don’t get too much else from the rest of the extended power play.

Jeff Carter gets tripped and draws a penalty to give the Pens another power play. Arizona gets the best look on a 2-on-1 but a nice stop by DeSmith keeps things moving to the other end, where Crosby is upended giving Pittsburgh a 5v3 power play for 33 seconds in a period with only 58 ticks remaining.

The Pens call a timeout to give their skilled players a break. It’s a disaster though, with Nick Bjugstad getting a clean breakaway and DeSmith having to bail his teammates out with a huge save.

The Coyotes are lucky to get to intermission at 2-1.

And this note is expanded on more in the thoughts section below, but Kasperi Kapanen was the only member of the bottom-six forward group that was on ice for even a 5v5 shot attempt in the first 40 minutes of play (CF below). Not even a shot on goal (SF) but just a shot attempt! (Not that any were playing all that much). Image via Natural Stat Trick:

Third period

The carryover power play to start this period is the Penguins’, and luckily they get through it without getting scored upon themselves.

The game continues on and Jason Zucker provides some insurance with 9:02 left. Malkin gains the zone and attracts four Arizona players to him, so he moves the puck to Zucker. Zucker dekes backhand and seemingly runs out of angle, until he flips a backhander straight to the top shelf. NHL players are really good at hockey. 3-1 Pens.

Shayne Gostisbehere doesn’t help his team’s cause by high-sticking Blueger on the next shift, setting up a sixth Penguin power play on the evening. No score though, in the theme of the night for that group.

AZ pulls the goalie fairly early with over three minutes left, needing a push down two goals. It doesn’t pay off and Carter slides in a long-range shot to end the losing streak.

Some thoughts

  • No goals for eight straight games, then two goals in two shifts, that’s the life of an NHL sniper sometimes. A player as talented as Guentzel is too good to be held off the scoreboard forever, and fortunately sometimes when the dam finally breaks the goals start coming in bunches.
  • Ty Smith isn’t Sergei Gonchar, but the way he can “walk” the blueline and change the angle and his offensive ability to get pucks to the net is a little reminiscent of the old No. 55. Smith isn’t afraid to shoot it from there either. The again, maybe it just stands out these days since no one else who has been in the lineup for a while for the Pens has that sort of skill set.
  • Continuing a thought from the image in the second period: you could sense the hesitation by Mike Sullivan when it came to putting out lower lines in this game. The Crosby line was great. The Malkin line was going. The other two? Not so much and barely used in a rotation that was skipping them about as much as possible (often rotating 1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 4, etc) and those lines doing very little while out there besides chase the puck in their own end. That’s not a healthy place to be, but is a different issue for a different time.
  • The Pens’ power play got 6:26 of man-advantage time in the second period and came away with zero goals. And have DeSmith to thank that they didn’t get outscored in that setting. Woof. For as great as the skilled players were at 5v5 forechecking, hunting pucks and making plays, they were not sharp in their setup controlled power play offense.
  • Keep going back to the play McGinn made in front of his net early in the second period to likely deny Hayton a second goal. It would have made the score 2-0 AZ, and while there was plenty of time left, who knows how the rest of the game would have played out with the Pens in a deeper hole? Little plays like that were ending up in the Pens’ net pretty much every chance possible during their losing streak. But when teams do enough little but important things right, it adds up.
  • It was a great team defensive effort in the third, only three Arizona shots got on net. Once Zucker scored to make it 3-1, the air went all the way out of the balloon for the Coyotes and it felt like they were content to pack it in at that point.

And with that, another long losing streak is over. And a lengthy road trip is complete. There isn’t much turnaround time though, the Pens have to get back to Pittsburgh quickly and play again on Tuesday.