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Penguins/Vegas Recap: Depth players step up as Pens shutout Golden Knights

Nedeljkovic, Graves and Acciari were the key players tonight, which means good things for the Pens in a 3-0 win over Vegas featuring lower line players making god

Vegas Golden Knights v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images


A couple of lineup changes for the Penguins; Jeff Carter is back in on the fourth line to replace the injured Vinnie Hinostroza and Alex Nedeljkovic is ready for a return from IR and jumps back into the net for his third NHL start of the season.

First period

It’s a great start for Pittsburgh, Lars Eller pressures Nic Hague, causes a turnover and gets the puck to the net. Drew O’Connor and Radim Zohorna get whacks at the bouncing puck but can’t put it in. Adin Hill is in pure scramble mode and out of the net so it’s an easy finish for Ryan Graves to score his first goal of the season. Pens jump out in front just 2:13 into the game.

Evgeni Malkin gets held and the Pens get the first power play of the game soon after the goal. The power play looks dangerous, Bryan Rust and Malkin nearly combine for a goal but the Golden Knights survive.

Carter goes to the penalty box but nothing comes of it. Pittsburgh gets another power play chance late, but unlike the first one it’s not that memorable.

Shots are 13-11 Pittsburgh in the first period, pretty fair start up 1-0 on the defending champs.

Second period

Pittsburgh’s third line keeps playing well but doesn’t score. Ditto Jack Eichel, who beats Nedeljkovic but is denied by the crossbar on a good look from in front.

It seemed like Vegas was tilting the ice and about to breakthrough, but it was the Pens’ third line that struck. Matt Nieto and Jeff Carter were grinding and battling behind the net, the Vegas clearing attempt hit Nieto and bounced right to Noel Acciari out front. Hill was twisted around the wrong way and Acciari quickly fired the puck off him and into the net for his first goal of the season and as a Penguin. 2-0.

Sidney Crosby is no stranger to the official scoring sheet, but his first entry of the night is taking a minor penalty, which is a little different than his norm. His team picks their captain up by killing it off.

Shots are 12-10 Vegas, but the Pens are up by two.

Third period

Pittsburgh looks good while grinding out to the end of the game, until taking a bench minor penalty with 4 minutes and change to go for too many men. They kill it off and Evgeni Malkin ices the game with an empty net goal with 78 seconds to play. 3-zip.

Some thoughts

  • Make that now 14 times out of 17 games this season that the Penguins have opened the scoring in their games. Leads the league and for whatever faults or inconsistencies the team has shown, starting strong and playing good first periods and getting out ahead has been a welcome and quality aspect of their season so far.
  • As the venerable Bob Grove pointed out on twitter, it’s not just about scoring first — it’s abut what happens next. Counting tonight, Pittsburgh is 6-1-0 when they can make a 1-0 game a 2-0 game, for obvious enough reason that getting out to a multi-goal lead is a great way to win hockey games. But when they go up 1-0 and give up the next goal to move to a 1-1 game, Pittsburgh’s record is only 2-5-0 on the season.
  • Loved the jump of Lars Eller in this game. For an older guy on a back-to-back and a lot of games in the last week, he was looking motivated and played a standout game.
  • Great job of getting some new faces to pitch in too, instead of the usual suspects. Graves got his first with the third line on the ice creating a lot of havoc in front. Then Acciari got his first for the always-welcomed fourth line goal. Coming into tonight, the Pens had about 5-6 players who were scoring a vast majority of their goals. Nothing wrong with getting a few new characters to chip in now and again.
  • That did mean the end of the line for the long scoring streaks of Crosby and Erik Karlsson. They’ll probably trade ‘em in happily to end the two-game losing streak and get back to their winning ways.
  • Nice return to the NHL lineup by Nedeljkovic. He was sharp and looked no worse for wear coming off the IR and now presents a viable second option in net behind Tristan Jarry moving forward. The goalie depth situation is back to 100%, which is a lot better than it wa about two weeks ago.

The Pens take care of business against the defending Stanley Cup champs tonight and now they get to soak up two days without games before getting right back to a three games in four day situation starting on Wednesday.