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Penguins/Lightning Recap: Zucker does it again! Pens win in OT

Jason Zucker scores his second GWG in a row and two on the night. Jeff Petry adds a pair. Pens sweep the season series from Tampa

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports


A couple of changes up front for the Penguins. Teddy Blueger is gone for good and Brock McGinn is gone for at least now, replaced by trade add Mikael Granlund and AHL call-up Drake Caggiula.

First period

Slow start for Pittsburgh and they give up a very painful first goal. New Lightning player Tanner Jeannot shoots from in close, the puck then bounces off a stick and cracks Kris Letang right about in the mouth, before tumbling down off Ross Colton’s body and in the net. 1-0 Tampa 5:38 in, Letang is left in a bloody heap and knocked out of the game until deep into the second period.

The Pens are treated to two power plays, but can’t score. Despite that result, it wasn’t poor for the Pens, who had a lot of zone time and some good chances but couldn’t sneak one past goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The “Big Cat” was in top form, standing on his head and also getting some luck when a Jake Guentzel shot hit Rickard Rakell but then the post and stayed out.

Shots were 13-8 PIT, who are down one goal and one top defenseman for the time being.

Second period

The second turns into the Jeff Petry show with two goals 25 seconds apart. Not bad considering he came into the game with only three goals on the season. Petry first cracked the Vasilevskiy code following what else but a great play by Sidney Crosby. Crosby broke up Victor Hedman’s clearing attempt and then fired a predictably perfect cross-ice pass right on the tape of Petry. Petry then used a Tampa defender as a screen and snuck a low shot by Vasilevskiy that he might not have gotten a good read on. 1-1 game.

Then after very nearly skating himself off-side with the puck, Petry took advantage of having the whole right side of the ice devoid of Lightning players, so he skated all the way in. Running out of room, he lifted a perfect shot that beat Vasilevskiy over the shoulder and was able to hug under the bar and go in the net. 2-1 Pens, just like that.

Marcus Pettersson clears Corey Perry out of the crease, but the puck isn’t there, so they call that a penalty in 2023 for Tampa’s first chance with the man-advantage. It only takes 28 seconds for Brayden Point to score a goal for the sixth straight game and tie it up. Mikhail Sergachev shoots from the point, the puck hits the mass of bodies in front and drops on a platter for Point to punch it in from his bumper position near the net. 2-2 game.

The Pens get the next power play due to too many men on Tampa, they don’t score but shortly after they strike. Pettersson feeds Jason Zucker on a long home run pass over the Tampa defense, and Zucker finishes on the breakaway five-hole on Vasilevskiy.

Pittsburgh gets in some penalty trouble, Letang clears the puck over the glass in one of his first shifts back. To start that PK, Drew O’Connor wins the faceoff to Petry who fired the puck right over the far-side glass to give Tampa 1:57 of a 5v3 advantage.

Very admirable work by the PK’ers, Mikael Granlund gets a big clear of the zone, and later Jeff Carter does too, and the Penguins survive to the intermission whistle through 1:22 of the kill.

Shots were 11-10 in favor of TB in the second, but it was an explosive three-goal period from the visitors that put them out in front by a 3-2 score with 20 more to play.

Third period

Tampa starts the third with 34 seconds of 5v3 time to go. They’re able to setup quickly but Tristan Jarry flashes the glove on Nikita Kucherov’s shot and Pittsburgh survives.

But as Letang and Petry get out of the box, Steven Stamkos attacks from the left side and blasts a shot by the arm of Jarry to tie the game after all. 3-3 with 19:21 on the clock.

Alex Killorn high-sticks his old friend Jan Rutta and the Pens are back to a power play. It fails for a fourth straight time on the night.

Brandon Hagel can’t settle a puck on a breakaway and fires high and a little later Drew O’Connor puts on a show. O’Connor bulls into the zone, puts his shoulder down and uses that big frame to fight off defender Taylor Raddish. O’Connor then finishes it off by chipping the puck over Vasilevskiy. 4-3 Pens are back in front.

Evgeni Malkin heads to the penalty box for Tampa’s fourth power play of the game. The Pens kill it but as it ends, they head right back to the sin bin. Mikhail Sergachev hits the post so hard the net almost comes off its moorings (not really but that sounds more dramatic), but the PK group otherwise survives.

Malkin gets upended and Tampa makes the latest trip to the penalty box. It’s a much more disjointed effort and they lose a ton of momentum. Tampa’s push pays off and with Pettersson in an awful gap, he totally blocks Jarry’s vision and Hedman slips in a quick low shot to make it a 4-4 game with 4:10 left.

That’s it for regulation.


As is the norm, Carter takes the opening draw to try and win the all-important possession of the puck in the 3v3 format. He succeeds and scoots off the ice.

Pittsburgh mostly holds the puck in OT, and Jason Zucker rags it around the zone. Zucker gives it to Pettersson who also holds for a while and feeds a pass for Zucker to one-time from the top of the circle. It finds the back of the net, Zucker wins another one for the Pens!

Some thoughts

  • It was great to see Letang get back on the ice late in the second period. A frozen puck to the face could mean any sort of injuries, none of them particularly good or fun to deal with. Presumably he got patched up and cleared of the worst possible outcomes, but after the adrenaline wears off who knows what he’ll be feeling like tomorrow.
  • No Letang for a while meant a heavy dose of Petry, as to be expected, and he stepped up in a major way with the goals and lots of usage. Down to only five meant a bigger role for P.O. Joseph too who played. The 5v5 ice time when Letang came back was 12 minutes for Joseph, 11 for Petry and Petterson and 10 for Dumoulin and Rutta. Some of that could be influenced by long shifts and carryover special teams time, but it’s notable that Joseph was tasked with a lot more than usual. Due to special teams time, Petry played almost half (17) of the first 35 minutes of this game.
  • Not too much to report on Mikael Granlund, with all eyes on him in his first game in a Penguin sweater. Listed at 5’10”, he appears even smaller than that as an initial visual impression. Otherwise, not a lot to grade on or hold up considering the short time he’s been with the team. He did have a hit and won 4/10 faceoffs in the boxscore in just over 16 minutes of work, and for better or worse it looks like will be a player the Pens slot into a PK’ing role.
  • Now that Blueger’s gone, Drew O’Connor was given the top center spot on the PK for this game. That’s probably going to be short-lived if Ryan Poehling gets healthy and/or the team makes another trade before tomorrow’s deadline.
  • At risk of flogging for saying something nice about Jeff Carter these days, it was a good game from Jeff Carter tonight. Two assists, great in the faceoff circle (61% on 18 draws), was successful on the PK to break up and clear pucks out and was also by far the best player on the team for expected GF on the night (can’t say that very often). Clearly he is who he is with real limitations but gotta give the ol’ boy his due after a solid night of work.
  • Multiple delay of games in rapid succession give anyone else flashbacks to the Caps series? Oy.
  • Easy to sense that both teams were pretty pissed off about the officiating decisions tonight. Tampa was barking from the bench quite a bit (as is custom for a Jon Cooper team) and the usually not-that-demonstrative Bryan Rust slammed the puck in the glass and pointed and yelled a ref after he got sent off. Not sure if that means it was good officiating or bad officiating when both seemed to be equally frustrated. All the penalties look fairly reasonably called, to this eye.
  • The Penguins versus the blue line on the power play is difficult to watch. Even when they try to dump or chip the puck behind the line of defenders, it rarely works. That needs attention and tweaking ASAP, as it has for a long time. Breakout strategies if they exist beyond drop passes and hoping the next guy can do it don’t appear to exist.
  • Zucker lately has been off the charts. It was a quiet game for Malkin and Crosby, but Zucker found a way to step up. Credit Pettersson on the two primary assists too, he can be frustrating (see Hedman’s tying goal) but is redeeming himself. Petry with two big tickles. O’Connor showing some life as a promising younger player blooming out of the desert that is the bottom-six. Crazy times.

Well, if I told you the Pens would have a 3-0-0 record against Tampa this year, you’d take it in a heartbeat. It’s now a four-game winning streak and a team building on some success on the ice. Onward to the last game in Florida of the season on Saturday on the other side of the Sunshine state.