Some shuffling in the bottom-six (but not THAT kind of shuffling everyone wants) with Alex Nylander taking a seat as predicted in the last recap and replaced by Danton Heinen from healthy scratch land and some mixing of the lower lines. And the defense....Oh gosh the defense, avert the eyes of children and pets before going any further.
Here's a look at tonight's line combos ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/68Blhluw4w— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 20, 2023
And here come the visiting Ottawa Senators, being led out by goalie Dylan Ferguson making only his second career NHL appearance and first since the 2017-18 season.
The Penguins get the better of the early action and that leads to the first power play when Ridley Greig trips up Evgeni Malkin 5:33 into the game. Rickard Rakell and Jake Guentzel get good shots but Ferguson makes two huge stops. Tristan Jarry is also called on to stop a good short-handed chance by Tim Stutzle to keep the game score-less.
From there, Pittsburgh plays with fire and eventually gets burned. Ottawa hits two posts and though don’t have frequent shots, start holding and controlling the puck more. On one such sequence, Thomas Chabot steps up and walks into open space and easily snaps a shot past Jarry. 1-0 Senators with 3:14 to play in the first period.
Shots are big for Pittsburgh, score is not. Not a new development but still a sad one to witness.
The Pens get another power play when the Sens get busted for too many men on the ice. Ferguson makes one save on a long range Malkin slapper that he makes look easy and that’s that.
Dylan Ferguson with some flair on a save on Geno Malkin. 22 straight Saves in his 1st start so far. pic.twitter.com/eCOQXN97Vo— Lalime's Martian (@LalimesMartian) March 21, 2023
Jarry then gets a chance to answer and does by stopping Brady Tkachuk’s backhand and then making a sprawling block on a lateral 2-on-1 pass to keep the game close.
At the mid-point of the period and regulation shots are 27-11 Pittsburgh. Goals still 0-1.
The Pens trap the Jake Sanderson - Artem Zub pair for an extended time on the ice. As in over a four minute shift for Zub. Yet as Pittsburgh controlled, pressured, attempted shots and scrambled they still couldn’t produce a goal.
Soon after, Kris Letang took down a Senator and Ottawa earns their first power play. The Pens kill it off and in the last minute of the period play a Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel and Letang group to keep the desperation palpable as they scratch to find that elusive goal. They can’t find it here.
Shots are 13-7 in the period, 31-14 overall, and yet it’s the home team still stuck in first gear down 1-0 and searching for the answers.
Pittsburgh keeps working, and earns another power play when Sanderson trips up Crosby in front of the Ottawa net. No dice, it’s the worst of the three Penguin power plays of the night.
Finally 54:39 into the game (with only 5:21 left) and on the FORTY SIXTH shot on goal of the night, the Pens score. Malkin feeds Rickard Rakell from the doorstep and Rakell mercifully beats this monster Dylan Ferguson. 1-1 game.
Here's another look at Rickard Rakell's goal, which was his 50th point of the season.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 21, 2023
He has now hit the 50-point milestone for the third time in his career. pic.twitter.com/FGL8Iq3nRk
The goal wakes Ottawa up, they start forechecking one and even two players ahead for the first time in ages. Chad Ruhwedel gets caught behind and takes a penalty with only 3:05 left in a cruel twist of the fates for this roller coaster. Ryan Poehling loses his stick on the PK, then Bryan Rust is stung with a shot and can’t clear the puck. That turns out to be a devastator, a centering pass clicks off Drake Batherson and inside the post. 2-1 Ottawa back in front with 2:09 remaining.
The Pens immediately pull Jarry and get a 6v5. It looks a lot like the 5v5 action, with the Pens controlling the puck, whipping it around but not scoring.
With only 35.7 seconds left, there’s a stoppage and Sullivan burns his timeout in a last chance to give the big guns a breather for one final push. Fittingly, the last best chance rolls harmlessly off Rust’s stick and the Sens clear.
- Can you even be mad? At this point it’s just funny. Well, maybe not laughing funny, but what a scene this was. Anonymous goalie stands on head for unlikely (but totally predictable by just about all Penguin nation) performance. Hockey is a humbling sport like that. The Penguins were good at everything and better than Ottawa at every aspect besides putting the little rubber puck in the goal cage. If the Pens haven’t lost about five games in the last month that they woulda/coulda/shoulda have won, it would be less painful. But so it goes.
- At this point, who can deny it’s just one of those days-weeks-months-years? If not for bad fortune on and off the ice, this team would have absolutely no fortune at all. Individual malady may not yet have struck each member of the team (though, scarily, there’s still time left) but as a group it’s been one hit after another. Tonight’s chapter in the book is just another in a long line of ‘em.
- If you watch the replay of the first goal from a different angle, it makes more sense why Chabot had all that room to move forward. Behind the play Bryan Rust changes off for Mikael Granlund seconds before the goal happens, the Pens only had four players in front of the puck. That’s not to say Rust was wrong or right to go to the bench, but it ended up contributing to burning the team just the same. Granlund was unable to get back in the play before the key portion was done.
- For the first 31 faceoffs of the game, either Crosby or Malkin took 27 of them for the Pens. As the old saying and Roy Acuff song goes, “don’t worry about the mules, just load the wagon”.
- Yes, this game and this game alone made me delirious enough to make a reference to a singer whose been gone longer than the age of the median reader. That’s the good stuff I can promise you that you won’t get anywhere else in the world.
- Anyways trying to pull this back on track: speaking of the workhorses, Kris Letang + depleted defense + a game with power play time = a lot. 29:33 to be exact, which for a non-overtime game is ridiculous.
- I guess at this part, credit to Ferguson. He played an inspired game. It’s beyond getting old see the Penguins get “goalie’d” and not score to expectation but the guys on the other side have a part in that matter too. I can’t recall the Pens getting more than maybe one odd-man break. The Sens sat back, blocked a metric ton of shots (27), mostly protected the homeplate in front of the net and challenged the Pens to find a way to overcome it. Pittsburgh had 89 shot attempts, 48 on goal. With all that rubber flying, it’s remarkable a puck didn’t hit something and go in (ironically Carter almost played a wrap-around off a defender and in the net, but it trickled just wide). Try as they may, it just wasn’t happening.
- This one stinks for Jarry, he stopped a few really good chances on Ottawa’s counter attacks, where they WERE getting of odd-man opportunities due to Pittsburgh’s aggressiveness. Jarry deserved that clear on the PK to get out, he had just made a huge save earlier. Alas, deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it, as we’ve all long since learned. If you knew nothing at 7:05 before the game started except that Ottawa generated 2.94 expected goals and Jarry only conceded 2 real ones, that would have been welcome news.
- To make matters even worse, the out of town scoreboard also dealt the Pens a blow - hey, why not, everything else is! Florida defeated Detroit tonight, the Panthers have jumped Pittsburgh in the standings for a day at least.
I don’t even know where the Pens go from here. In many ways, strange as it sounds, this result seems more deflating than the last, a 6-0 loss on the road where one period got away from them and it was over. Pittsburgh threw it all and some no-name goalie made a name off them. Nothing left to do but get on the road and move onto the next mountain to climb (literally) in the form of the Colorado Avalanche — who don’t look now but are heating up with five straight wins and going the opposite direction of this Penguin team.