For the second straight game the Penguins make defensive changes that leads to a rookie lap prior to warmups. This time it’s for John Ludvig, who cycles into the lineup at the expense of Chad Ruhwedel. Alex Nedeljkovic gets the nod in net, forwards stick as they have been.
Lined up and ready for hockey! pic.twitter.com/v5BsczuUPp— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 24, 2023
Following getting blistered by their coach after last game, the Pens come out the gates looking very engaged and focused. Jake Oettinger looks the part as one of the top goalies in the league and sticks with them early, but Pittsburgh controls play and perhaps most importantly does a lot better to shut down the middle of the ice and have numbers back to prevent rushes against.
The Pittsburgh power play gets a chance but even though they don’t score the team continues to draw positive momentum out of it.
Deep in the first, the Pens get on the board. Kris Letang does well to defend a rush and help win a puck for Sidney Crosby to get going the other way in transition. Jake Guentzel goes into space and centers for Bryan Rust at the net. Rust shovels one up and in past Oettinger and the Pens get rewarded for a very strong period.
Crosby to Guentzel to Rust… to the back of the net!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 25, 2023
The Penguins’ first line has combined for 18 points (9G-9A) and has accounted for over 50% of Pittsburgh’s goals (9/17). pic.twitter.com/JvEpwwfC7Z
The Stars take another penalty late and are lucky to get out of the first down just 1-0 when Guentzel’s redirection attempt from in front doesn’t go.
Shots are 18-9 PIT through 20 minutes.
Pittsburgh gets a lot of carryover power play time, but still can’t find a goal.
Guentzel goes to the box and the Pens kill off Dallas’ power play but the Stars build and score. Evgeni Malkin doesn’t get the puck deep, then Ludvig’s partner pass behind the net for Erik Karlsson becomes a turnover, then Ludvig has a tough time in front of it cleaning it up. It leads to Jason Robertson getting plenty of time and space in front. Not the guy to give that chance to, Robertson collected his own rebound and put a backhander under the pads of Nedeljkovic to knot the score at 1-1.
In a scary moment, Ludvig took the chance to step up into open ice and lay a big hit on a Radek Faska, but in the big collision ended up being the one getting laid out after lunging into it and having his head collide with the Dallas player. After being down for a few minutes, Ludvig was able to get to his feet and helped off the ice by two teammates.
The scary injury took the buzz and atmosphere ut of the game and caused a few moments to reset on the ice. The Stars struck next, getting Evgenii Dadonov to the net who had no problems with the defense of Rickard Rakell to poke in a go-ahead goal with 3:57 remaining.
Guentzel again got another great look in the closing seconds of the period, but Oettinger met his shot with a save.
Shots in the second were 12-11 PIT, and 31-21 Pens overall, but it was Dallas who scored twice to take the lead into the third.
Letang goes to the box early and the Pens kill it off. Nedeljkovic makes a clutch save at 5v5 but then gives it back by leaving the crease, getting tangled up and leaving the net totally abandoned for Thomas Harley to score an easy one. 3-1 Dallas.
Pittsburgh gets another crack at the power play but again comes up empty when Oettinger gloves down a shot from Sidney Crosby.
Wyatt Johnston puts the game out of reach with a power move to the net and jamming the puck by Nedeljkovic. 4-1 with 6:09 to play.
- Ruhwedel taking a seat meant the Penguins needed a first group PK defender and another blueliner in general. Letang got the first crack and then Ryan Shea killed penalties for the first time (joining Marcus Pettersson and Ryan Graves) in lieu of Ruhwedel out.
- Ludvig got injured on his very next shift after being on the ice for the first Dallas goal against. Clearly was trying to step up and make a big impact to atone for himself, but didn’t work out that way. Given how he crashed to the ice and was visibly shaken going off, be it for performance or injury it might be a while before he’s back. As far as NHL debuts go, that has to be a unique one.
- Not that Ludvig was playing much (just 5:29 in just about exactly half-way through the contest) but losing him meant the team had to awkwardly rotate between five defenders and mix pairings a lot through the night. That’s easier to get through with two horses like Letang and Karlsson but still creates personnel troubles to work through.
- The first 40 minutes was a story seen before; the Pens played well, couldn’t score, power play left them hanging, a couple slip up and they’re behind.
- Down just 2-1 entering the third, Pittsburgh’s response was very troubling, they didn’t show many signs of life before the goalie blunder that essentially was curtains for this one.
- Nedeljkovic is a very, very active goalie when it comes to leaving the crease to play the puck. Most of the time that’s a help for his team, but it went off the rails at a moment when he couldn’t afford to leave the crease and hand a goal away.
- In the third period, Sullivan shuffled lines to put Radim Zohorna up with Malkin and moved Rakell down with Lars Eller and Drew O’Connor for a time but then had Rakell back with Malkin by the end of the game.
As they said on the broadcast, Dallas isn’t a team that are going to beat themselves, but the Penguins sure will inflict their own wounds at this point. The finishing ability remains in the tank, the power play is in a rut, a couple defensive lapses happen, the goalie who was playing well gifts a goal and it mounts up quickly. In a vacuum, this wasn’t a bad game (..until, well it was) and there isn’t much shame in losing to a strong opponent. But Pittsburgh continues to be plagued by a lot of issues in the early going and only have a tough mountain to climb (pun intended) when the Colorado Avalanche come to town on Thursday.