Welcome to the 82nd and final Pittsburgh Penguins game of the season. The Pens find themselves in extremely unfamiliar territory in this Crosby-Malkin era in which they play a game while being eliminated from the playoffs.
Marcus Pettersson is back for the finale, his first game since March 18th. Jan Rutta is excused for the night, as is Josh Archibald up front, since Drew O’Connor is able to go. Tristan Jarry gets the final start of the 2022-23 regular season.
Your lineup for game #82. pic.twitter.com/S3mM0bNTEm— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 13, 2023
With both teams playing out the stretch, the game had a weird intensity to it. It was not the typical pace and tempo of a normal NHL regular season game. Players did play their position and almost everyone on both sides perked up when the puck came their way in the offensive zone.
Otherwise, it felt almost as if this was the world’s most skilled men’s league game ever. If only three players on both teams showed up halfway through it do to having to work or something.
Anyways, the Penguins score first on the power play in the first period. Kris Letang shoots from the point. To me, it definitely looked like Jake Guentzel not only tipped the puck in front of the net but also most likely struck it above the crossbar. But the refs are on the last day too, no review, they just give the goal to Letang and keep it moving. 1-0 Pens.
Kris Letang tallies his 40th point of the season (12G-28A) and becomes the fourth active defenseman to record 10 or more 40-point campaigns. pic.twitter.com/1cpGgQue4H— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 13, 2023
Early in the second period, Columbus sets their cannon off. Andrew Peeke blasted a rolling puck hard right by Jarry. 1-1 game.
The Pens are back to scoring power play goals. Jake Guentzel hesitates, presumably looking for a shot-pass type play. None are available so he ends up taking a rare little slapshot and, wouldn’t you know it works. 2-1 Pens.
Jake Guentzel leads the Penguins with 36 goals in 78 games this season.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 14, 2023
He’s looking to become the eighth player in franchise history to lead the team in goals in three separate seasons. pic.twitter.com/gJEbvHa0t1
The Blue Jackets don’t go quietly into the good night, finding an equalizing goal with just 3:25 to go in the third. Emil Bemstrom one-times a pass from across the ice to tie the game at 2-2.
In overtime Crosby tries to set up Guentzel at the net but they can’t connect. As the Pittsburgh players go to change, the puck is quickly advanced up to Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has a clean breakaway and ends the season with a nice backhand deke and tucking the puck through Jarry’s five hole. 3-2 Columbus takes the OT victory.
- In the very strange meaningless game, at least we got to see Sidney Crosby play. Sid got a pair of assists on the first two goals, career point 1,501 and 1,502. Can go into summer at least above the even 1,500 and carries the seventh 60+ assist season of his NHL career.
- The Pens played this game pretty straight up in terms of lines and starting Jarry. That’s probably a good sign that he is healthy, no reason to trot him out if he was less than 100%. As of this morning I was kind of curious if he would be playing in this game.
- Marcus Pettersson told Dan Potash on AT&T Sportsnet during the first intermission interview that the team wanted to finish out on a strong note and get the win. That explains why there was no fun involved like playing Crosby and Malkin on the same line the whole game. That would have been enjoyable, but also with the cascade effect throughout the lineup might have been detrimental overall. Pettersson having that message top of mind gives a good glimpse into what the coaching for this one was, even though everyone understood playoffs were out of the picture, they were still business as usual in an unusual circumstance.
- The Pens have seven impending unrestricted free agents (Jarry, Kulikov, Dumoulin, Archibald, Heinen, Bonino and Zucker). If a line was set at 2.5 of them returning to Pittsburgh, I still might take the under in what is bound to be an off-season of significant change. The fringe players in the lineup are likely to be cut loose. Dumoulin has regressed to the point he should be on the outs. Zucker is certainly the most desirable of the group, but his age and contract request may prove too rich to fit moving forward. Jarry, well, who knows at this point.
- On that note, Columbus’ second goal was scored passing though a lane where Dumoulin and Jeff Carter both leaned their sticks out and couldn’t stop the opposition from scoring. One more for the road, I suppose.
- And one more third period lead evaporating and turning into a loss. Only fitting for this group.
- Bummer for Bryan Rust to end the season on a sour note, apparently getting injured on the PK. He would not play in the third period, hopefully just precautionary and nothing to deal with in the off-season, but on the plus side he’s got nothing but time now.
- From all of us at PensBurgh, thanks for being along for the ride! It’s been one of the more unique and challenging seasons in the internet world and on the ice, but we’ve all made it in mostly one piece. The summer will be long, but we’ll be here for every step of the way as the Pens look to put the pieces back together and move forward for 2023-24.