Same lineup with Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell flipped on the top lines for the Pittsburgh Penguins from their last game.
A similarly banged up Colorado Avalanche team enters the night on a six-game winning streak with this lineup.
Painful first period for a couple of Penguins. Jason Zucker blocks a shot with his foot and is staggered for a bit. He shakes it off and is able to keep playing. A little later, Jake Guentzel is felled by an opponent shot and the breakdown in play leads to Nathan MacKinnon hitting the iron and nearly scoring before Tristan Jarry recovered and desperately jumped on the puck to stop the play.
The Avalanche get the game’s first power play when Bryan Rust hooks a player. The Pens get to intermission without any damage though.
Shots are 10-9 COL in the first period. Pittsburgh was holding on for dear life at times, but make it through 20 minutes still scoreless.
Pittsburgh survives the short carry-over penalty to Rust, and then Sidney Crosby opens the scoring. The Pens’ captain totally walks defenseman Sam Girard and then unleashes a patented and beautiful backhand shot to the far top corner over Alexandar Georgiev. 1-0 Pittsburgh early.
Simply Sidsational.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 23, 2023
With this goal, Sidney Crosby hits the 30-goal milestone for his 11th season. Only 19 other players in NHL history have accomplished this feat. He also ties Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal campaigns in team history. pic.twitter.com/rBOw83V7wQ
The Pens get their first power play when Josh Archibald draws a cross-checking penalty. It becomes a 5v3 advantage when Crosby gets held. Pittsburgh makes the Avs pay, Evgeni Malkin does a nice job to knock down a Colorado clearing attempt and puts the puck on net. Jake Guentzel bats the puck from out of mid-air at the front to extend the lead to 2-0.
Jake Guentzel has seven goals in his last nine games pic.twitter.com/adY4p0iXXZ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 23, 2023
Pittsburgh keeps the pressure up with a few more good shifts while they have all the momentum but don’t push the lead any further. Then, the champs counter-punch. Kris Letang gets pinned to the back wall on a breakout gone wrong, a quick pass later and J.T. Compher finishes off a great chance from the slot to get Colorado on the board. 2-1.
Next up is some O’Connor on O’Connor mayhem with Logan taking down Drew, giving the Pens another power play. The second group scores when Bryan Rust makes a pass over for — don’t adjust your screens people — it’s Jeff Carter snapping a puck in off the post from the left side! 3-1 Pens.
Crosby and Darren Helm get in a full on wrestling match behind the net, Pittsburgh gets the power play after an extra minor penalty is assessed to Helm, but don’t have the services of No. 87 for it who is in the box. No scoring on it.
After four straight Pittsburgh power plays, wouldn’t you know it, Colorado gets a call late in the second to have only their second PP of the night. They have a ton of zone time, but the Pens clog the shooting lanes and keep the puck out of the net.
Tremendous second frame for the visitors, shots are 22-9 PIT in the second alone (heavily influenced by power plays) but they jump out and take over the game with a 3-1 score and 20 minutes to go.
The Pens start a second period while short-handed and a second successful kill.
The goalies start showing their stuff on end-to-end action. Jarry makes a huge save on Denis Malgin and then Georgiev denies Rust. Jarry answers back by stopping Compher.
Archibald gets his leg out and trips a player, so Colorado gets another crack at their power play. This time it pays off, some quick passes and Devon Toews unloads a slapper from the right circle that foils Jarry. 3-2 game with 9:32 to go.
Pittsburgh keeps chugging and gets it back. Archibald races down the ice to beat an icing and the fourth line grinds away. Eventually Brian Dumoulin gets the puck at the left point and tosses a perfect pass for Carter to redirect just beyond the leg of Georgiev. 4-2 Pens on the most unlikely but welcome of goals with 7:09 left.
Colorado gets way aggressive and pulls the goalie with 4:59 left when they get an o-zone draw. Jarry shoots for the empty net but misses and ices the puck. The Avs utilize their timeout to rest their top players at 3:28 to go.
Jarry tries again for a goal and misses wide again to ice it again. Crosby fires the puck in the net, but it doesn’t count since Rust is in an offside position. Rust chips the puck ahead and it actually goes in to seal the deal with 18 seconds to play. 5-2 Pens.
- The old saying “beat me if you can, survive if I let you” is what came to mind seeing the Avalanche to start this game. You can tell right from the puck drop the pace they play with and ferocity they hunt down pucks and pressure is something that stands out compared to just about every other team in the NHL. The Pens simply hanging in there for that first 5-10-20 minutes to find their footing later was a huge development for this game.
- Loved the games from Drew O’Connor and Josh Archibald. O’Connor looks better and better holding onto pucks and working to generate offense, recording five shots on goal and ight total attempts. If Archibald was bigger than the generous “5’10”, 180” he’s listed at, he might be one of the most imposing hitters in the league with the way he throws his body around. Both players pitched in drawing power plays for Pittsburgh.
- Zucker was able to continue, but for a time everyone should probably hold their collective breath that his foot doesn’t swell up too much or any damage was done to any of those bones in the feet. That would be a potential loss the Pens that is almost too much to think about, hopefully that block will go down as a little footnote (no pun intended) and be forgotten quickly.
- MacKinnon is an animal out there. His galloping skating style with endless cross-overs means he’s gaining so much speed. The extra motivation, which he doesn’t even need, in the Crosby/Mac games are always so much fun but also frightening when Nate Dogg is on the prowl.
- Vintage Crosby on his backhand goal. The quality of that shot might get lost after the move around the defenseman, but my goodness. Combined with undressing Girard just before and it was shades of the old (young?) Sid right there. Just another special goal for his endless highlight reel.
- The TNT broadcast pointed out how stoked the whole Penguin bench was when Carter scored. Rust leaped into his arms. It’s no secret how much of a difficult season the veteran has had, struggling at most times to look like he belongs on the ice in an NHL game these days. That was a flash of the 400-goal career and had to be a very cathartic goal. Not that one play will change any opinions or the body of work he’s able to give but it’s good to see something good happen for him for once.
- Great insurance goal from Dumoulin and Carter teaming up finally for a positive goal in the third.
- Special teams were just that, winning the battle 2-1 on the scoreboard. That served to be a major difference in the game.
- There’s interesting but somewhat controversial advanced game logic out there that suggests NHL teams should pull their goalies far earlier in the third periods than they actually do, especially when losing by multiple goals. (And then even leave the goalie out, even if the other team scores). NHL teams are slowly starting to adapt towards this and sometimes now with 2ish minutes left team make the move. Colorado did it with 5 left. You’ll probably see the game evolve more towards this in the future, cool sign of that advanced and very cutting-edge coaching from the Avs.
Quite the showing for the Pens, who needed to dig deep and show something and were able to get a result. Now they have travel and a very quick turnaround to meet up with a rested and strong Dallas team tomorrow night. The path doesn’t get much easier