Saturday, May 15
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Recap: Pens keep the Devil(s) way down in the hole. Pittsburgh wins 6-4 – PensBurgh

Pregame

The Penguins get a fourth straight game with the same lines and lineup, with the exception of goalie Casey DeSmith getting the nod tonight in the back-to-back situation.

First period

Just 3:01 in the Devils get on the board first. Miles Wood goes hard to the net, maybe gets a slight piece of DeSmith or at least makes him uncomfortable in a scramble. Wood finds the puck before Kris Letang or DeSmith can get to it and throws in home. 1-0 NJ, almost before the Pens know what has hit them.

Pittsburgh regains some composure, nice play by Jason Zucker to spring his whole line on a 3-on-1 rush. The puck makes it to Jared McCann but he gets robbed by a very nice save by goalie Mackenzie Blackwood.

McCann gets the better of Blackwood soon after, as the Devils take the game’s first penalty for too many men. The Pens’ top group is at it, Sidney Crosby with a shot from afar hits traffic and then bounces out to open space for a split second. That’s all McCann needs to hack the puck directly top shelf. It’s scary how little time NHL players need to make a play like this. 1-1 game on McCann’s 11th goal of the season.

The Devils take the game’s second and third power plays later in the period, but Pittsburgh can’t cash in on four more minutes worth of power play time. But the Pens are able to get one more goal before the end of the period. With just 47 seconds left, Brian Dumoulin puts an innocent enough looking point shot to the cage that hits a Devil defender and takes an extreme bounce and winds up in the net. 2-1 Pens.

Shots in the first period end up 9-7 Pens. 5v5 shots, however, are 6-4 New Jersey, as Pittsburgh enjoyed 5:28 of the 20 minutes on the power play. The Devils spent exactly 0:00 with PP’s of their own in the first period.

Second period

Nearly six minutes into the period New Jersey ties the score. Yegor Sharangovich shoots the puck and DeSmith stops him but leaves a rebound. Janne Kuokkanen avoids the stick lift of Mike Matheson in front of the net and keeps the puck alive and it finds Jack Hughes out from a sharp angle. Hughes has a lot of open net looking at him and snaps it quickly in.

Not long after, Jesper Boqvist gets a chance from a similar spot off to DeSmith’s left and with a lunging save DeSmith prevents a second goal in a row like that.

Not to be outdone, Blackwood makes a couple of ridiculous saves on McCann and Lafferty again of his own.

Radim Zohorna goes to the box to get the Devils a power play, they get some zone time but don’t score.

The Pens get the lead back late in the period. Colton Sceviour scores his first goal since the sixth grade picnic (or January 19th) when he bats in a mid-air rebound from a Kris Letang point shot. 3-2 Pittsburgh with 2:22 left.

Shots in the second end up 11-9 Pittsburgh

Third period

Early on the Devils take another penalty to send the Pens to their fourth power play of the game, and the big guns fire away. After about 55 seconds of mesmerizing puck and player movement, Crosby passes to the middle and McCann makes a cheeky little redirection of the puck to angle it over for Bryan Rust. Rust has plenty of time to wind up and takes a slapshot and just blasts it by Blackwood. 4-2 as Pittsburgh extends their lead.

Pittsburgh looks like they’re off to the races when they make it 5-2 with 10 minutes left in the game. Jake Guentzel is feeling it with this really hard feed from behind the net to Crosby who receives it well and wires it far side on Blackwood.

But the Devils, to their credit, don’t go away quietly. They could pack it in but just 1:32 after Crosby scores, Jesper Boqvist gets his second goal of the season (and second goal in the last two games) when he skates through the Pens and into the corner and looks like just tries to center the pass but it takes a bounce and somehow slips past Desmith. 5-3 and NJD has a little bit of life.

And the Devils get within 1 after they pull their goalie and control an o-zone faceoff. Miles Wood gets his second of the game when, much like the previous goal, from behind the net and no angle he’s just whipping the puck towards the front and somehow it takes a bounce and goes in. 5-4 game with 1:36 left and we have a sweat going.

With 25 seconds left though, Rust removes all the doubt about this one and skates down a loose puck in space hits an empty netter for 16th goal of the season to seal the deal at 6-4.

Some thoughts

  • In addition to his first period goal, Dumoulin made a wonderful outlet pass right up the middle of the ice to hit Sam Lafferty in stride for a breakaway. Lafferty’s shot was stopped, but it showed the type of ability that Dumoulin flashes too infrequently, really. When his offensive game is on and he’s able to create even a bit of it, that makes the Pens so much more dangerous. That was working well tonight, let’s hope it continues.
  • Speaking of defensemen goals, that’s the second game in a row an off-speed shot from distance deflects off a defender and in the net. That doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to shoot more frequently into clogged up shooting lanes, but it does go to reinforce the skill of finding a way to get the puck through such lanes, and that good things tend to happen when directing pucks to net.
  • McCann and Lafferty could have had three goals tonight. EACH. Some crazy good looks at the net. Tip of the cap to Blackwood, but especially for Lafferty (0 goals in 30 games this season) he’s got to be feeling cursed at this point. Nice to be generating some scoring chances at least, a departure from the norm, but no finish at all right now.
  • Casey DeSmith had a mixed bag of a night that is pretty tough to judge definitively. Gotta take the good with the bad. The good: his lunging save that punched away a puck headed from an empty net (GIF above) when the score was 2-2. The not so good: giving up two third period iffy goals on beyond bad angles. Some bad luck to be sure, and you could see his frustration, but he has to keep the puck out of the net on plays like that where guys are just throwing prayers from behind the net and banking it off him and in. Luckily he had the goal support by then so it wasn’t a big deal but a 25/29 night (.862 save%) isn’t going to win a lot of games.
  • But, as a team, the Pens gladly gift a goalie some grace and let him give up a bad goal or two late once they already break out to a 5-2 lead if he can make the huge save when it’s 2-2 to keep them in it and allow them the opportunity to take that 5-2 lead. Decent trade-off for skaters and goalie when it comes to figuring out how to win a game.
  • And to that end, for a game where there were 10 total goals, there was some really, really, REALLY impressive saves made by the goalies. There was a bunch of goals at the end of the day, but especially for about 35-40 minutes of this game there was some awesome goaltending by both netminders who traded off some highlight reel stops.
  • The top line came alive late with Crosby getting 1G+1A in the third, Rust getting 2G, Guentzel getting 2 assists in the final 20 minutes. Turns out the Pens needed all of that, even if it might not have seemed it at the time some of those goals were scored.
  • 2 PPG on the night on four attempts, and perhaps what spoke even louder than that great result was just how in tune the Pens looked on the power play. As power play goes, they either look like they’re the best group in the world, clicking like a finely tuned watch and just beautiful to watch with their puck mastery, tape-to-tape passes, flawless decision making and then finishing ability. And when it’s bad, it looks like they’re a bunch that barely knows how to lace up the skates. Right now, it’s the former in a big way, it’s looking great. May the good times roll.
  • Pittsburgh did a good job of staying out of the box too, getting whistled down to only one penalty to NJ’s four. And, honestly, the Pens were fortunate that the officiating broke their way in this game. Usually the refs find a way to even up calls more. But, hey, no complaining here, the best way to shelter a struggling penalty kill (while on the road and with the backup goalie playing) is to not ask much of them.

The Pens get a win and have to feel great about their offense and power play right now, as they’re finding ways to pile up the goals. And they also have to feel great that there is only one more leg on the six game road trip that they’re 3-2-0 on. One more game against New Jersey on Sunday night separates them from going home…And getting a short three day break from games.

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