The Penguins make a minor change to demote Brock McGinn to the fourth line and put Drew O’Connor up a group. Dustin Tokarski gets his third NHL start of the season in this back-to-back situation.
Early on the Penguins draw a power play, and they convert it into a power play goal! Evgeni Malkin carries the puck into the zone and passes off for Rickard Rakell. No one gets in Malkin’s way, so he simply drives to the net. Rakell puts a centering pass and Malkin smartly keeps the puck low and beats the sliding Vitek Vanevek through his legs. 1-0 Pens.
HE WILL BE FIRE— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 18, 2023
Evgeni Malkin reaches the 20-goal plateau for the 14th season. pic.twitter.com/42jOmVrHmR
The lead only lasts 1:20. Chad Ruhwedel spins in the the corner right into an official, which doesn’t help things. The Pens look a little lost in coverage, Dustin Tokarski is swimming around with no real aim and finally on the third crack at it, Dawson Mercers smacks the puck into the net. 1-1 game.
Pittsburgh gets a couple more power plays, but over-pass the puck and can’t score.
But — stop the presses — Teddy Blueger can score. Only with his feet and kicking the puck into the net. Turns out, you can’t do that so the goal is taken off the board and Blueger stays at one for the season.
Jason Zucker on the forecheck is a menace. Brendan Smith found that out the hard way.
First period shots end up 13-12 to the Penguins. Decent enough period, though they got a few cracks at the power play to show for most of their best chances.
Marcus Pettersson takes an inteference penalty and the Devils take advantage quickly. Nico Hischier beats Blueger in the faceoff circle, eventually gets the puck back and circles around the cage. Hischier passes back to Dougie Hamilton and with Tokarski trapped down low to protect against a possible wraparound/stuff play, Hamilton has plenty of space to the far-side of the net and he finds it. 2-1 NJ.
Common atNJDevils admin W. pic.twitter.com/sjZZ3gmzj2— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 18, 2023
The Pens’ get another power play but disaster strikes. Hischier chips the puck by Kris Letang and New Jersey is off to the races on a 2-on-1. Hischier passes to Yegor Sharangovich, who gives it back and Hischier’s got an empty net to finish the short-handed goal. 3-1 Devils.
Shots in the second period are 16-9 in favor of NJ, who start to pull away on the scoreboard as well.
Jersey sends the Pens to a power play, which is good for them at this point. Sharangovich gets a clean breakaway but Tokarski throws the leg up to scorpion him.
The Devils use a clinical passing play to pick apart the Pens and Jesper Bratt finishes with authority. Woof. 4-1 and still over 11 minutes left but this game feels like it ended long ago.
We Jesp keep on scoring. pic.twitter.com/WwN6CUEhOB— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 19, 2023
The Pens get desperate an pull Tokarski. Jake Guentzel has a look from right in front but Vanecek stones him. With that great chance spoiled, the Devils get the puck back and Hischier escorts the puck into the empty net in a casual way. 5-2 NJ.
That’s it for this one.
- Well, on the plus side, Rickard Rakell is a joy to watch right now. He’s in a groove, every time he touches the puck good things are happening.
- And hey, Evgeni Malkin too! Two goals for the big guy. A bit hollow but nice to see him get back to and over the 20 goal mark for the season.
- On the negative side, there’s pretty much everything else. Pittsburgh on a b-2-b that started about 20 hours after their last game ended and then had to travel back while Jersey was waiting for them. The Devils are a better team anyways and excellent on the road. Add in a third string goalie and all the factors were pointing to this not having a great result. Not surprisingly, it didn’t end well.
- O’Connor to the third line didn’t quite work to change thing. Another terrible possession night and two minor penalties for Jeff Carter. Hip, hip hooray!
- The power play scored a goal, but then got really lax and gave up a goal and were lucky it was only one. Per Wes Crosby, the Pens have given up six short-handed goals this season, tied with San Jose, St. Louis and Florida. Only Vancouver, Detroit and Tampa Bay have allowed more (each at seven).
- Funnily enough, today doesn’t hurt Pittsburgh’s future chances very much for qualifying for the playoffs after seeing the Islanders and Panthers lose in other games. How dangerous they may be when they get there? Still very much in question.
Another tough night at the office for the Pens. And really, it’s tough to be upset. The Devils are a quality side. Pittsburgh was playing a third string goalie and in a tough spot on the b-2-b. The Pens need a hand to compete in games like these. Right now, outside of a couple key spots, most of their players just aren’t good enough.