The Penguins bring Jan Rutta back to the lineup after a long injury stint. Danton Heinen is also in there in the new post-Kapanen world for Pittsburgh.
Kapanen wasn’t traveling with the Penguins, so his new team ended up not having his services and using an 11 forward + seven defender lineup with the lines from the Blues official website of:
Buchnevich - Thomas - Barbashev
Saad - Schenn - Kyrou
Toropchenko - Brown - Blais
Walker - Pitlick
Leddy - Parayko
Scandella - Faulk
Krug - Bortuzzo
It’s a dominating start for Pittsburgh, aside from one thing. They just can’t score on Jordan Binnington. They do almost everything else though, out-shooting the Blues 21-5 in the first 16 minutes of the period, with scoring chances at a 21-8 edge, and high danger chances at 10-1, all in favor of the Pens. But goals remained 0-0.
With 3:48 left in the period, Jason Zucker took the game’s first penalty with a four-minute high-sticking call against him. If it was unfortunate there was no score early, the Pens were surely happy to limp into the locker-room with no score at all.
Overall shots in the first were 21-7 PIT. Aside from the Zucker penalty, it was a strong start. Product of Pittsburgh players getting the message from fans, coaches and their GM? Or does it say more about just how bad St. Louis is? Possibly a little of both?
The Pens kill the short amount of time of the carryover penalty, but St. Louis scores 23 seconds in. Robert Thomas throws a shot to the net and Pavel Buchnevich tips it from in front. It’s ever so close to being struck above the cross-bar, but Pittsburgh does not elect to challenge the call. Being so close and having been ruled a goal on the ice, that would have been difficult to overturn. 1-0 STL.
The blow doesn’t deter the Penguins too much, they stick with it and find an equalizer. Marcus Pettersson does a nice job to hack the puck up to Evgeni Malkin and he’s in on a 2-on-1 with Bryan Rust. Malkin feeds rust Rust and goes to one leg to load up for the shot, but elects instead to slide the puck back to Malkin. The extra pass is a good one and pays off to be an easy finish for Geno to tie the game.
The way Geno looks at Rusty after that beautiful passing pic.twitter.com/OuhfFTE8jg— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 25, 2023
Pettersson then steps up with a clean but fairly big open ice hit on Brandon Saad and all the players come together after the whistle in a scrum. Jordan Kyrou of the Blues ends up being the only player somehow to get a penalty out of the mix, to give the Pens their first power play of the game. They get some zone time but not much else.
After a dominating sequence in the STL end, Heinen bumps into Binnington who makes a dramatic tumble down and the Pens get rung up for the penalty.
Shots in the second are 12-10 Pens and 33-17 overall. Pittsburgh has been the better team for almost all of the game, yet it’s all tied up.
Justin Faulk goes to the box for high-sticking Malkin. It’s a much more disjointed power play this time around for the Pens.
As time ticks down, Pittsburgh finds a goal from the most unlikeliest of sources. With the fourth line on the ice, Blueger rushes in and drops a pass for Marcus Pettersson. Petey has room and uses it, stepping into a wrist the blows by Binnington on the glove side. 2-1 Pens with 5:38 to go. Hell of a time for Pettersson’s first goal of the season.
It's a multi-point game for Marcus Pettersson! pic.twitter.com/oTsLFNk3cr— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 25, 2023
The Pens wouldn’t be out of the woods, because of course they wouldn’t get out so easily. Six players crash down on Jarry’s crease and the puck disappears but somehow Faulk finds it and the refs don’t blow the play dead and it’s tapped in to tie the game with 2:27 left.
That’s it for regulation, shots are 13-9 Pens in the third, and 46-26 in their favor overall but they can’t win the game in 60 minutes.
After a limited amount of changes in possession, the Pens settle in with the puck. Rust tries for the shot, but it’s blocked aside. Malkin is there to pick him up and recovers the puck and quickly fires a pass down. Rust is at the front of the net and shovels it in to end the game and secure a huge extra point in the standings for the Pens.
- Pretty cool to see Game No. 800 for Crosby, Malkin and Letang as teammates in the lineup in the same game today. There aren’t gonna be 800 more in the future, so even in rough times like these, gotta make sure to make an effort to enjoy it for what it is.
- The Teddy Blueger Snakebit world tour continued by hitting the crossbar with a shot about as hard as possible in the second period. 31 games and counting without a goal.
- He wasn’t the only one, Zucker hit a post in the first, and Malkin did in the third.
- Overall, it was an “A for effort” type of game with 48 shots, but also a disappointing night of finishing to struggle to score. The finish for this team is a very curious subject. They are generating enough chances and looks to fill the net, yet they rarely do. All’s well that ends well for one day at least, but Binnington definitely made the Pens earn it tonight.
- Surprisingly dominant game from the lower lines. Those guys see the shakeups happening. And, again, it’s not like the Blues are a strong opponent. But always encouraging to see them tip the ice again and be on the ice in the third for a goal.
- Ivan Barbashev of the Blues stood out. One thundering check sent Brian Dumoulin into the end boards and then smarting and rubbing his neck on the bench afterwards. That was one of eight official hits on the game, and he also had eight shots attempts (four on goal). Very visible game for him. If the Blues were interested enough to claim Kapanen for free, I don’t see why or how the Pens couldn’t have tried to swing a Kapanen+ trade for Barbashev, but I digress.
- Pettersson did play on Thursday after his fiancee gave birth earlier in the week to their first child. Does this still count as the classic new dad strength? I think it has to. Great job there. A multi-point game for him as well.
- Arguably both the St. Louis goals were fluky/questionable enough in nature, but so it goes. No damage at all for Pittsburgh to give the Blues a point tonight, which is why the late goal doesn’t sting at all after the result. More annoying than anything, but such is life right now as a Pittsburgh hockey fan where anything that can pop up to give some displeasure is seemingly doing so at the moment.
- It was great to see the emotion on Rust after his game winner. This was a big goal. He only had five points (3G+2A) in the last 12 games before today, where he added two more. The Pens need to have him on track, he can’t just be a guy that shows up every once in a while. They need a little more out of him this season, which he has been the first to acknowledge. If this game does anything to help boost the confidence and get him rolling, that’s a huge plus. Overall, Rust and Malkin haven’t quite clicked or had a ton of success together this season, but today was a big exception. The Pens no doubt are hoping this is a sign of things to come and not an outlier.
Nice job for the Pens to go on the road and get the result, they couldn’t afford to lose forever and got it in gear. But now, the challenges intensify — they have to fly back to Pittsburgh to meet a strong Tampa team tomorrow for what will be a third game in four days for the Pens. It’s not going to be easy, but every day at this point is a new opportunity to build momentum and get it back on track.