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Pens/Canadiens Recap: Harkins ends marathon shootout following classic Crosby game

After a vintage Crosby three-point game wills the Pens to stick close to Montreal, Jansen Harkins of all players gets to be the hero and end a 12-round shootout

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Pregame

Same crew as last night for Pittsburgh, besides the switch in goal for the back-to-back.

Host Montreal is using the following formation, as they put it.

First period

The Canadiens strikes first. Erik Karlsson tries to move the puck out of the zone but Drew O’Connor can’t receive the rolling puck cleanly. David Savard does and he walks ahead into the empty area and whistles a shot by Alex Nedeljkovic. 1-0 MTL early.

Montreal extends their lead a little later on with more troubles of the bounce and puck luck. Jesse Ylonen skates into the corner and flings a centering effort. The puck clicks off P.O. Joseph and the Canadiens get two cracks at it from in close. Michael Pezzetta can’t do much with it but Jayden Struble collects the loose change and whips it into the net. 2-0.

Down 2-0, the Pens need a response and they get one from their leader. Sidney Crosby disrupts a breakout attempt and sets Drew O’Connor up for a goal. O’Connor can’t finish so Crosby follows up and does send a fluttering puck past Samuel Montembeault to get Pittsburgh on the board.

Just as soon as the Pens approach striking distance, Montreal lengthens the lead. Marcus Pettersson sits for interference and the Canadiens score on the power play. Nedeljkovic may be bothered by the traffic and lets a floating shoot sneak through him. The puck is poked in by Sean Monahan right at the goal line. 3-1

Shots in the first are 15-11 Montreal. Three odd goals to give up, some unfortunate bounces along the way lead to being in an early hole.

Second period

The Canadiens open the door and the Pens walk through it — two Montreal penalties 1:59 apart lead to a lot of power play time and the top guns come through. After a big scrum along the back-wall, Jake Guentzel gets it in space but hesitates to allow players to regroup a little. That ends up being a wise choice so that Crosby can track down the blocked shot attempt by Guentzel. Sid gives it back to Jake and he leans into one to blow it by Montembeault. 3-2 game.

The Pens get another power play opportunity, and boy it’s not messing around now. Karlsson delays and feints to open up room, dishes for Crosby who blasts a shot from long-range. The puck hits old friend Mike Matheson and goes in. 3-3 game.

With all the momentum, Pittsburgh keeps pushing. Montreal ices the puck late and the Pens put out all their best players. Vinnie Hinostroza centers a puck that hits Crosby in the crease and it goes in — but about 0.5 seconds after the clock expired. The Canadiens must be at Bayside, ‘cuz they just got saved by the bell.

Shots in the second are 15-7 Pens, great bounce back and response to a slow start to draw things even for the final 20 minutes.

Third period

Kris Letang has to slash Cole Caufield after a long outlet pass springs him and the Habs get their second power play of the night. This time the Pens kill it off.

Montreal is up 11-2 on shots and the Pens look like they’re holding on for OT but then with 3:02 left O’Connor is whistled for goalie interference to give Montreal a tremendous chance for a late go-ahead goal. Pittsburgh makes it through the first 1:43 of it, then the Habs use their timeout to strategize for the final push. It’s all for naught since Jeff Carter wins the faceoff and the Pens kill it off.

Time runs out and each team grabs a point.

Overtime

Malkin trips up Caufield and Montreal goes to a 4v3 power play. Nedeljkovic shines by reading plays and moving laterally before the shots come to stop a few Montreal attempts.

With 1:12 to go in the kill, the Pens burn their timeout to rest and regroup his top PK group of Carter, Lars Eller and Marcus Pettersson.

The group holds, Montreal out-shoots Pittsburgh 9-1 in OT, but can’t out-score them so it’s to the gimmick.

Shootout

Nick Suzuki is first up, he winds in slowly and the shootout ace gets up to 11-for-20 in his career by snapping one in.

Kris Letang gets the response attempt for the Pens. Letang dekes to the forehand and lifts it over Montembeault’s glove. Back to even.

Caufield is next, similar move to Suzuki and he shoots forehand to the roof to make the shootout 2-1.

Crosby looks to answer, he dekes to his forehand and lifts it over the blocker side. Back to even again.

Jesse Ylonen in the third and potentially deciding round, he tries to deke to his forehand but the shot clinks off the post and to safety.

Guentzel goes with the game on his stick — and HE hits the post too! Onto round four.

Juraj Slafkovsky barrels in quickly, Nedeljkovic stays with him and makes a leg pad save.

Evgeni Malkin gets the chance to win, but he can’t slide the puck five hole. Onto round five.

Joel Armia is the next pick, he shoots well wide of the net.

Reilly Smith with the third Pittsburgh chance to win it, but he’s stopped by the leg pad. Round six.

Chrstian Dvorak gets his number called, he shoots wide but Nedeljkovic is down after getting smacked with the leg of Dvorak.

Erik Karlsson gets his chance for a winner, he blasts a slapper but it doesn’t work. Round seven incoming!

Sean Monahan winds in slowly and flips a forehand shot by Nedeljkovic.

Lars Eller gets the pressure to score or lose, his deke to the forehand goal extends it to Round 8.

Mike Matheson is up next, save!

Jeff Carter gets a turn to play hero, but he can’t tuck the puck in around the leg of the goalie. We go to round 9.

Michael Pezzetta goes, stopped!

Valtteri Puustinen drags the puck but misses the net. Round 10.

Jake Evans gets his shot, Nedeljkovic stops him.

Radim Zohorna next, saves. Round 11 is necessary.

Brendan Gallagher gets a chance, doesn’t score.

Vinnie Hinostroza tries to deke, no dice. We gotta go to Round 12.

Josh Anderson goes super slow, can’t out-wait Nedeljkovic.

Jansen Harkins is up next, his shot mercifully trickles in. Pens win, Pens win!

Some thoughts

  • After going 0-for-37, the power play is up to a 4-for-8 stretch now. Goals tend to come in bunches and right now after being so ice cold, if you didn’t know about the last month it would be hard to tell with how good it’s looking at this point.
  • One major reason for the instant turnaround is that Karlsson is shooting. A lot. And that shot threat and fake he put opened the space for Crosby’s second goal. Karlsson had 7 SOG and 10 total attempts overall in the game, and not surprisingly assists on both of the PPGs. The team needs him to be more active like that to have success and he stood out in a major positive light there.
  • O’Connor wasn’t immediately benched after his flub early in the game on the first goal against, but by the second period the team had adjusted with Vinnie Hinostroza up with the top line for most of the rest of the way. Looked effective.
  • But then again, Crosby was just in that zone where he was pulling the sled no matter who was on it. The great ones always can elevate like that. It’s the Dad’s trip, in Montreal, special moment and the captain put on a great show. He was so dominant during that second period in particular you wish could have gone on forever...Or for at least another second or two. Special stuff from a special player.
  • Nedeljkovic was getting victimized a little bit early on with some situations outside of his control and pucks ending up behind him, but showed nice fortitude to settle in and keep the puck out of the net in the final two periods and OT. He got some help from his posts and crossbars along the way but made a bunch of really nice saves when he had to.
  • Random thought, but it feels like Joel Armia has been on Montreal forever, doesn’t it? (Only since 2018 in reality). Just seems like he’s been around since the days of Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri in Montreal, even though he clearly hasn’t.
  • Marcus Pettersson played the first 1:30 in OT of the 3v4 situation and my goodness he put on a clinic. He used his size to drop down to the ice and extend his stick to take away the key passing lane through the middle (perhaps the first effective instance of this technique in Pittsburgh since seemingly Rob Scuderi) and helped hold the fort. And what Pettersson wasn’t taking away, Nedeljkovic was. Masterful work by those two to keep the game alive.
  • It was fitting the dad’s trip concluded with a marathon shootout that got to see (almost) all of their boys have a chance in the spotlight.
  • Jansen Harkins still doesn’t have an official point as a Penguin, but what a way to help the team.
  • The Pens string back-to-back wins together for the first time since Nov 11-14.
  • Pittsburgh improves to 4-0 on the back-half of back-to-back games.

Big win for Pittsburgh to pickup two points in the standings, keep the power play hot and feel good about the path they’re on at the moment. Now they get the benefit of some rest and get back at it on Saturday in Toronto.