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Pittsburgh/Ducks Recap: Pens stunned by late McTavish goal

The Penguins find a new way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when they fail to score on a long power play and get burned with a goal against with 12 seconds to go

Anaheim Ducks v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images


The Penguins start out the game by honoring and remembering Adam Johnson, who died in England over the weekend during a game.

The Ducks are going with John Gibson in net as they look for a fourth straight win as a team.

First period

Pittsburgh gets an early power play when Evgeni Malkin is tripped up and for the first time in 17 tries it scores. Malkin does a great job to pull the defense with him and then sauces the puck back for Erik Karlsson. Karlsson hammers it and Gibson can’t do much with Jake Guentzel right on top of the crease. 1-0 Pens.

Ryan Graves handed the Ducks their first power play on the next shift but the Pens were able to kill it off.

Anaheim still scored the next goal anyways, at 5v5. A bouncing puck eluded Chad Ruhwedel and Tristan Jarry came up empty when he lunged out of his net to try and snare it. Bad move and Jakob Silfverberg was able to tuck the puck in and tie the game 1-1 with Jarry was out of the net.

Immediately following that, Bryan Rust snuck behind the Anaheim defense and Sidney Crosby sprung him for a clean breakaway. Gibson stones him.

Pittsburgh gets another power play, and Malkin sets Crosby up with a wide open cage in the final few seconds of the period. Gibson is out of the net and facing the wrong direction, spun around like a top with all the puck movement. Crosby snaps the puck towards the empty net, but somehow in desperation Gibson gets his stick out and the puck strikes it and stays out of the net. Unbelievable.

Gibson is slow to recover after the horn sounds following that spaz to keep the game tied.

Shots are 8-7 Ducks, the Pens were fine or good for about 19:57 total of the period. Yet they only score once. And their only slight slip ends up in their own net to leave the game tied after 20.

Second period

Backup Lukas Dostal replaces Gibson for the start of the second period.

The Pens get a third power play of the night early in the second, it has its moments (including Evgeni Malkin hitting a post hard and the second group having a full on rugby scrum in front of the net) but doesn’t get through.

Crosby is the next to head to the penalty box, and the Ducks move out to the lead. Frank Vatrano nets his ninth of the year against a Pittsburgh team he thrives at scoring against with a high short-side shot on Jarry. 2-1 with 8:09 to go in the period.

Bryan Rust turns the puck and the Ducks have Jarry down and out but Rust works hard to get back on defense and saves a goal possibly twice on different sequences.

Jarry’s tough night continues when the Ducks’ fourth line put a puck behind him. The goal is immediately waved off on the ice for goalie interference. Anaheim challenges and even though there wasn’t truthfully that much contact, Sam Carrick was in the crease and leaning on Erik Karlsson who prevented Jarry from establishing his positioning.

The very quick review confirms no goal, and rookie coach Greg Cronin moved to the front of the bench to yell at the refs. They don’t like when that happens and rack Cronin up for unsportsmanlike conduct, which leads to a full two minutes of a 5v3 advantage.

It took 1:06 of that power play to get the goal, but the important thing was they got the goal. After a few good looks, the Pens finally got to what they should have been setting up all along; Evgeni Malkin releasing a hard shot. It hit the net. 2-2.

Again in the final few seconds, Pittsburgh nearly scores at the buzzer. This time Crosby attempts to throw a puck from behind the net and off an Anaheim defender and in. It had some starch on it but stayed out.

Shots in the second are a whopping 20-9 in favor of the Pens, but just like at the start of the first and second periods, the score remains even on the board.

Third period

Pittsburgh’s third line steps up in a major way early on. Drew O’Connor sets up Radim Zohorna for a great chance in front but Dostal stops him. No matter, they keep working and Zohorna picks up an O’Connor rebound and has an easy backhand finish to put the Pens up 3-2 just 1:24 into the third.

That lead barely lasts a minute, Kris Letang can’t clear the zone and Anaheim gets the puck up to Mason McTavish in front. McTavish’s five-hole shot slips past Jarry. 3-3 game.

Play goes back and forth, Anaheim gets a golden opportunity with just over four minutes left when Marcus Pettersson hooked a player. The Pens survived and then a sensational individual effort by Lars Eller forced McTavish to take him down.

As the Pens’ power play was beginning, the Ducks got bad luck by clearing a puck over the glass. Pittsburgh got 5v3 for 1:49 with just 2:08 in regulation.

The Pens use their timeout with 1:17 in the game to give their top dogs a chance to regroup and catch their breath. It doesn’t work. Dostal adds one more big save moving laterally to stop Crosby. Karlsson tries to force a cross-ice pass that Adam Henrique breaks up and pokes up to McTavish with nothing but open ice ahead. McTavish lifts a shot over Jarry and Anaheim takes the lead with 12 seconds left.

Well that’s a new one.

Some thoughts

  • This game, or the first period more directly might sum up October 2023 in a nutshell for the Pens. OK, well they scored a PPG so it’s not a perfect illustration of what happened, but in about every other way it was a good microcosm of a frustrating month. Generally speaking, the team played well, they produced a ton of chances but only scored one goal. Had one little slip up that cost them. Could have been winning, but weren’t. So it goes these days.
  • People are tired of hearing “the Pens’ process is good, their results and luck have been bad,” as much as I’m tired of thinking and writing it, but I defy you to watch the last five seconds of the first period and not begrudgingly admit that is the case. Sucks that it is, and luck alone surely isn’t their only flaw, but it’s not helping.
  • That luck did look like it was turning though, as it always tends to do over the course of a long season. Let’s call it what it is — the Pens got lucky to come out on the good end in a video review of a call that could have gone either way. Then they got more good fortune when Cronin lost his composure to hand them a 5v3. Just like that, what could have been a 3-1 hole in a game late in the second became a 2-2 game.
  • How many times has Pittsburgh generated a ridiculously good scoring chance in the closing seconds of a period? The season is young but the examples are many, including two in this game. No goals though. Items like that can shift the whole game and it’s not quite there yet.
  • Goalies are always a lightning rod and this year Jarry has alternated between being very good or very bad. He obviously wasn’t very good tonight. When considering the Rust save and waved off goal, Jarry was looking at four goals against in the first two periods. He’s shaky right now, and it’s not made better by the fact that the other goalie the Pens have played have been tremendous. Dostal came in cold to a game he wasn’t expecting to play and made a ton of quality saves. Jarry couldn’t answer when he was needed.
  • Whatever the Pens drew up at the timeout, it didn’t work. Looked like more just hoping Malkin would be able to score from distance again, as he did earlier. Reilly Smith started on the top group but it was Rickard Rakell there by the end of the night. Rust also took a shift with the top power play. That group did score twice, but somehow still found a way to let the team down on the game winning goal against. At this point one just has to throw up their hands and laugh. Or curse.

And curse seems like the right word for the Pens. They win the shot battle 42-27. Moneypuck had them with an appropriate 6.66 expected goals, yet they underperformed once again in a major way to convert that to actual goals. They lost the battle of goaltenders. And they lost another game to end a frustrating home-stand and have about as poor of a month as could possibly happen this side of a major injury to a key player.