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Penguins/Predators Recap: Pens earn a point, then get tripped up in overtime

The Pens’ comeback falls short quickly in overtime on a controversial call

NHL: NOV 28 Penguins at Predators Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins welcome back Bryan Rust following a three-game injury absence, keep Jansen Harkins in the lineup and scratch Alex Nylander.

First period

The first period was the Michael McCarron Show, and we were all invited. The big forward opened the scoring for Nashville with a redirection from about 12 feet out that left Tristan Jarry with no chance on a puck that went straight down and bounced. 1-0 Preds.

McCarron followed up his second goal of the season with his third goal in rapid succession a few minutes later. He used his big reach to catch up with a loose puck and threw it perfectly to the top shelf.

Shots were 11-9 Penguins in the first period, who didn’t play terrible, but then you look up and find them down by two at the break just the same.

Second period

The Pens get on the board with a beauty of a blind pass from Reilly Smith to Evgeni Malkin, who roofs it on Juuse Saros. 2-1 game.

The McCarron-centric night continued with a fight against John Ludvig. For my money, this is the first real fight of the season (Marcus Pettersson was credited with two fighting majors, but what he does is barely considered fighting). Despite being badly out-sized, Ludvig feeds McCarron a few lefts, then switches stances and gives him a few rights before falling down.

The refs ring the Pens up for a pair of minors over the second half of the period, but the visitors hang on.

Shots in the second are 15-9 Pens, and it’s again a mostly positive period for them. They still trail because Saros is mighty good and maybe they’re stunned that Michael McCarron is cosplaying a modern day Kevin Stevens power forward out there, but within a shot of tying the game up.

Third period

The Pens find a tying goal 2:26 into the third period. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel get to work behind the net on a wall battle, the puck goes back to Ludvig at the point. He gives it to the open player in Rust and Rust’s long-range snap shot hits paydirt. 2-2 game.

The maligned Pittsburgh power play gets their second chance of the night, and...The first group ices the puck once, which the same number of shots they got before scampering off the ice.

No one scores any further, so extra time is in the cards.

Overtime

OT is blink and you miss it - Ryan O’Reilly makes a pick play at the blue line which opens up all sorts of space for Filip Forsberg to rush into the zone. Forsberg snaps a shot by Jarry and OT is over just 14 seconds after it started.

The Pens are livid about the non-call that led directly to the goal, and rightfully so, but what’s done is done.

Some thoughts

  • You can’t stop Michael McCarron, you can just hope to contain him. Wait, what? The 28-year old had just 12 career goals in 169 games entering tonight, but was playing like an animal in this one. Go figure. He’s gotta repeat whatever pregame meal or nap routine he had today, it clearly worked. Made some nice plays too, can’t snark on that, just from a surprising source. (Hey, maybe we can hope that magic will rub off via proximity on the Pittsburgh side of the roster who barely ever scores).
  • Smith and Malkin have been quiet lately, good to see the pair of them kick it back into gear and make a play happen. They haven’t gotten a ton of support or help from their third winger all season long, and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. Drew O’Connor’s in the spot now, but rapidly approaching “what are we even doing here” territory.
  • O’Connor will join Matt Nieto and Jeff Carter when he gets in that area. Rickard Rakell on the LTIR means the Pens have salary cap space not to trot out either of these guys night after night. Neither appear to be contributing anything tangible positive. Carter often is a demonstrably negative player, like when he took a minor penalty tonight. As games tick away, it’s got to shift to coaching and management to figure out how to replace ineffective players with ones who might actually chip in something from time to time.
  • Calling a player a “throwback” is possibly an overused trope (but hell, I used Michael McCarron and Kevin Stevens in the same sentence today, so what can I say about it) but John Ludvig is a player who acts like he was born in 1960 or 1970, not 2000. Ludvig drilled Dante Fabbro with a huge hit behind the net, chucked knucks. Old time hockey isn’t totally gone just yet! It’ll be interesting and fun to see how far Ludvig goes in the NHL. Could have the makings of quite the cult favorite with an abrasive style.
  • This was the 21st game of the season, but only the second OT game (joining the 4-3 win in LA earlier in the month). Pretty strange in a league where the percentage of OT games is significantly higher. The Pens played in 20 total overtime games last season, going 9-11 overall (8-10 in standard OT, 1-1 in shootouts). This was only Nashville’s second OT game of the season too. That’s hockey for ya, a guy who barely scores gets two in a game and two teams that never go to OT end up going to extra time.
  • Pittsburgh won’t be happy with the officiating, and they will have every right to do so. Minor penalties went 3-2 Nashville, and the ones against the Pens weren’t exactly egregious violations. When Kris Letang likely pointed out something along those lines, the ref on the hot mic was caught saying something like “oh you want to join him” after he announced a penalty. And once wasn’t enough so he said it twice. Only one day after a viral ref moment, it reeks of main character syndrome for these guys too often. That’s all minor enough compared to the blatant miss of an interference call in OT that decided the outcome of the game. This space doesn’t often (ever?) complain or overly criticize the officiating by design, but it was putrid tonight.

With this one behind them, the Pens will take the one point away and look to see what they can get out of Tampa on Thursday night.