The Penguins are running back the same lineup as last game for this one.
Meanwhile, the host Lightning are trotting out this group.
It’s a nightmare start for Pittsburgh. And that might be putting it lightly. Tampa gets 13 of the first 15 shots on goal. Only Tristan Jarry keeps the game from being a total mockery in the early going. The Pens’ defense is scrambling every which way, being out-raced by the puck. On the few chances they get a hold of it, they don’t look like they know what to do with it.
A Tampa lead looks only a matter of time, and time runs out quickly for Pittsburgh. Steven Stamkos gets a tip on a Victor Hedman point shot as the Lightning finally find a way to get a shot that Jarry can’t keep out.
Shortly after Tampa scores, they get rewarded with a power play. It’s strength against strength going up against the Pens’ penalty kill. The PK almost holds and looks in good shape for about 1:50, but doesn’t quite get the job done. Tanner Jeannot punches one in from in front as the power play nears its end. 2-0 Bolts.
The Pens are on the ropes badly at this point, if this was a boxing match the ref might have been tempted to step in and declare a stunning early TKO. Hockey offers no such reprieve. Pittsburgh gets perhaps their first break when Erik Cernak trips up Jake Guentzel. The Pens’ power play doesn’t score, but does have some zone time and decent looks (and doesn’t give up anything), so hey, take what ya can get I guess.
Shots in the first end up 17-5. The Pens probably didn’t all personally apologize to Tristan Jarry during intermission, but they all should have.
The second could hardly get any worse, and the Pens begin to get to their game and start to comeback. 8:53 into the frame, they get one back. Guentzel intercepts a puck in the defensive zone and springs Sidney Crosby on a breakaway up the left wing. Crosby opts to go high and short-side on Andrei Vasilevskiy’s blocker. It works. 2-1 game.
The road warrior strikes again!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 1, 2023
Sidney Crosby has 15 points (11G-4A) in 11 road games this season. His 11 goals on the road lead the NHL. pic.twitter.com/pat9bBmBDJ
After more pressure, the Pens find a tying goal in the last minute of the period to get back on even footing for the third. Kris Letang makes a nice pass up the ice for Evgeni Malkin, who goes through the middle to set Drew O’Connor up for a tap-in. 2-2.
Just how we Drew it up! pic.twitter.com/vilCBJKZix— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 1, 2023
Pittsburgh flips the script from the first and badly outshoots TB this time around (19-7 in the second period).
Pittsburgh keeps riding the wave of momentum and Matt Nieto and Jeff Carter work a give-and-go that Carter slings...into the net? In the year 2023? Wow. Pens take a lead with 17:11 to go on Carter’s first strike of the season.
Marcus Pettersson comes up clutch to knock away a puck from the crease out of mid-air that might have been heading in to tie the game. Incredible bit of hand-eye coordination there.
O’Connor goes to the box with 12:23 to go to grant Tampa their second power play of the night. The Pittsburgh penalty kill goes the full two minutes this time to get out of the woods.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper, aggressive as always, pulls his goalie for an extra attacker with three minutes left for the Lightning to make their push to tie the game.
It backfires on Cooper in a spectacular way - THE FIRST GOALIE GOAL IN PENGUIN FRANCHISE HISTORY! Jarry gets the puck and doesn’t hesitate to fire it immediately down the ice. The shot is straight and true. 4-2.
GOALIE GOAL.— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 1, 2023
GOALIE GOAL. pic.twitter.com/O54WWCrYvn
What a way to top off a big comeback.
- Ryan Shea took four shifts in the first period; two of them ended up with the puck in his own end. Accordingly, he didn’t play in the final 7:27 of game-time in the first, and then only had two shifts in the second period (one of which he ended up on the ice for over two minutes due to getting trapped. Could be interesting to monitor with P.O. Joseph getting back to be a regular in practices again and presumably nearing a return.
- That opening “effort” by the Penguins? Woof. Has to be up there for one of the worst of the season. They were awwwwful early on, aside from Jarry. Huge for him to keep them remotely close and in a position to comeback. That could have easily been 4-0, 5-0 early on with the way the Lightning were buzzing and the Penguins were bumbling around.
- Which made the response in the second period as enjoyable as the early portion was frustrating. To the surprise of no one, it took the almost exactly the names you would expect/guess (Guentzel, Crosby, Letang, Malkin) figuring in with the key roles on the two goals in the middle frame to claw back into the game.
- Then, of course, the Pens took a lead with probably the last name someone would guess in Carter turning back the clock to 2011 or 2021 and showing a flash of what used to make him such a special offensive player at one point. Sadly, these days at his age and the speed of the game leaving him behind, those moments are almost gone for good, but hey — good one him for potting a goal like the good ol’ days.
- That Crosby shot was incredible. Perfect to the top shelf, high velocity. That’s his 14th in 22 games this season and 11 in 11 road games. He’s as sharp and crisp as ever.
- The Malkin pass right through a defender was just as nice. It wasn’t just any old ham ‘n egger either, that was Victor Hedman that Geno outfoxed. It should go a long way to helping O’Connor feel good about playing a role on a top line and getting rewarded with a goal.
- It was a mostly penalty-free affair, Pittsburgh got one power play and Tampa just two. Given the state of both power plays, that development worked in the Pens’ favor to not have the game turn into a penalty-fest in this one.
- Jarry and Pettersson appreciation bullet. Both were very critical and if they didn’t have good games, this one could have gone a different way. It’s under-stated on Jarry’s part, scoring a goal from that position is rare, special and to be celebrated. But don’t forget about the 39 saves he had to make to put himself in position to go make a little history.
- Speaking of “go a different way”, what would dropping to a 10-11-1 record mean after getting blown off the ice in the first? The Pens were staring at that before a tremendous response and fighting to get up to 11-10-1 and taking a tough road win instead. This game isn’t going to mean anything if they lose the next one, but as far as potential season turning points go, this one is worth circling and remembering if the team does get on track in the near future.
The schedule flips to December, and the gifts are going to come early with a home-and-home with the rival Philadelphia Flyers starting on Saturday night at home.