Two changes for the Penguins from last game: Chad Ruhwedel is back in the lineup for an injured Mark Friedman. And in a last minute change that fools even the twitter account, Drew O’Connor gets a spot in the lineup and Ryan Poehling is scratched.
Let's play some hockey.#LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/QAyOXbnHAb— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 15, 2023
Here’s how San Jose is lining up at home. Of note, their top two goalies are injured, so Aaron Dell is in the cage.
Roses are red, Sharks are Teal— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) February 15, 2023
Here's tonight's lineup, it's a pretty big deal ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Wee8O0121Z
Slow start for Pittsburgh by everyone except the first line, but that turns out OK since the first line leads the way. Jeff Petry gets the puck on net and Rickard Rakell fights off a bump by Erik Karlsson into Dell to catch the puck and flip it into the net. 1-0 Pens.
We'd like some more of this, please. pic.twitter.com/3PfO40lKHG— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 15, 2023
The Sharks get a good shift in their offensive zone, but it ends up being Nick Bonino, now of San Jose, who takes takes a penalty for the game’s first power play. It’s less than great for Pittsburgh.
Late in the period the teams trade 2-on-1’s. First, Jake Guentzel’s pass to Sidney Crosby is stopped by Dell, and soon after the Sharks have a glorious 3-on-1. It looked like a slam dunk with one more pass, but they didn’t make it. They still got a good shot, matched by a solid save by Casey DeSmith.
Shots in the first are 10-9 San Jose. It wasn’t the most composed period the Pens have ever played, but they escape it with a lead, so that’s something.
Early on the Pens get some quality chances but no goals. Dell again does well to stop Crosby on a great chance and then Evgeni Malkin puts a beautiful pass on a platter for Jason Zucker all alone in front, but while on the backhand Zucker can’t do much with it.
Logan Couture is in the Valentine’s Day spirit and gives a big old hug to Brock McGinn, but that’s frowned upon during the game - Pittsburgh gets a second power play. Much like the first one, they can barely get the puck in the zone let alone create any offense out of it.
After that, the Sharks get their first flurry of chances but DeSmith stops Timo Meier from distance and then Bonino whiffs on an empty net. By the time he recovers, DeSmith is right there to close up the bottom corner of the net.
FROM THE TIPPY TOES! pic.twitter.com/P4kDzoG1iZ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 15, 2023
DeSmith is tested again by a hard Nico Sturm shot, but his glove hand confidently snags it.
Jeff Carter takes a tripping penalty to put the Pens on the PK for the first time on the night. DeSmith again comes up big with a great stop on Meier from the right side of the net and the Pens kill the minor penalty off.
After all those chances come up empty for SJ, the Pens’ top line makes them pay. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel work a give-and-go, Guentzel’s stick actually smacks Couture in the helmet but the refs don’t take note of that. Crosby slickly makes a back-hand pass as he wraps around the net, and Guentzel has an easy goal when the goalie reacts to Crosby’s skating and is unable to see the pass coming back the other way. 2-0 Pens.
Fun fact: 12 of Jake Guentzel's 22 goals this season have come in 21 games against Western Conference opponents. pic.twitter.com/qxDmlkiPzJ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 15, 2023
Noah Gregor hands the Pens another power play, but it doesn’t look like their night in that regard, nothing happening.
With 34 seconds left, Rakell is going to the box for SJ’s second power play chance.
A steady as she goes period for the Pens. It’s a lot like the first period: the first line and DeSmith are good, the rest..Is also there. Shots 17-12 SJ in the second and 27-21 overall. Pens up two with 20 to go.
San Jose starts with about 1:30 of PP time, but can’t generate much.
The Pens are pretty conservative and content to let the clock tick down. DeSmith has to make a shoulder save on Couture but keeps his strong night going.
Dell stops Malkin and then quickly at the other end DeSmith might make his best save of the game on Meier.
With 4:03 left, the Sharks get on the board. Petry passed off Meier to a back-tracking Marcus Pettersson and that didn’t work out. Meier had the angle to go all the way to the net, so he did and slid the puck in low on DeSmith. 2-1 game.
Timo Meier speeds into the zone and finishes off a beautiful power move for a great tally, Sharks within 1!#SJSharks pic.twitter.com/5HVTfrb83Q— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) February 15, 2023
The goal brings new energy to San Jose, who desperately throw everything they can at the Pens. That opens them up though, and Crosby takes advantage to spring Guentzel on a clean breakaway. Jake’s cheeky deke to the soft five-hole attempt is matched by Dell sticking with him. No insurance goal...Yet.
The Sharks pull Dell and then the Pens try it again. Crosby springs Guentzel who has more luck finishing against the empty cage. 3-1 Pens with 37.9 seconds left.
Teddy Blueger gets a look at an empty net, but he has more trouble - hitting the cross-bar and failing to score. Alas.
Time runs out, and the Pens get the victory.
- The Pens got some favorable news on the out of town scoreboard tonight with the late start. Back east, Washington lost in regulation to Carolina and the Islanders fell in a shootout to Ottawa. Those two division foes are close to Pittsburgh in total points in the standings, but the kicker is they’ve played a handful more games to do so.
- Hey, the rare first goal of the game for the Pens! That was fun.
- This was DeSmith’s seventh start in a row, and coming into the night he was 3-2-1 in the recent stretch. There’s a big difference between 4-2-1 (a 105 point pace over a full season) and 3-3-1 (82 points). You never know what you will get from game-to-game out of DeSmith - he was fighting pucks and leaving rebounds on way to giving up three goals in 21 minutes and getting pulled last time out. This game, new goalie who was way better. It was a welcome sight.
- Both goalies were good in fact, my squeezed in headline referencing a 25ish year old marketing campaign aside. Who woulda guessed? DeSmith truly DeServed a shutout for tonight, but the Pens couldn’t help but give up an odd-man rush late to open a door and let SJ back into the game.
- The fourth line was OK, possibly the second best line for Pittsburgh. It’ll be interesting to see what (if anything) was up with Poehling to have him not play. He was on the ice for the morning skate and warmups but a very late scratch. They didn’t lose much with O’Connor filling in
- Related to above, this was only the third Pens’ road win in their last 12 games. And their second in the last three, so perhaps that is something to build on and the worm is finally turning a bit on what has been a very poor road record this season.
- It’s also three goals in the last three games for Guentzel, who is perhaps quietly starting to get back in a groove. The top line overall was magic when they got the puck in the o-zone. Rakell got his 19th of the season and Crosby tacked on assists for all of his winger’s goals. Just another day at the office for those guys.
That’s it for the California portion of the trip. The Pens take care of business tonight and have a positive overall trip going 2-1-0 on the West coast. Back to the glorious, glorious Eastern time zone to face the Islanders on Friday.