Last night, the Penguins beat the best team in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3 in a shootout. The Canadiens were without all-star goalie Carey Price, but backup goalie Mike Condon has been spectacular in his absence.
What is the more impressive thing about this win?
For the first time since January 5th of 2014, the Penguins won a hockey game when trailing after 2 periods of play. Before last night, the Penguins were 0-31-6 in their last 37 games when trailing after 2 periods.
Well, make that 1-31-6 in their last 38, and the first win when down after 2 under Mike Johnston.
It’s nice to get that monkey off the back, but it can’t stop there.
One down, but plenty more to go.
If the Penguins plan on making a playoff run, or, dare I say it, win a Stanley Cup, this record needs to keep improving. I understand the Penguins cannot win every game when they’re losing after 2 periods.
Heck, they won’t win the majority of them.
But they need to be a team that is able to come back in games and be a third period threat, especially considering how good the Penguins’ offense is.
Ideally, they should be winning 20-30% of these games, which would be easily top 10 in the NHL. They did it under Bylsma with a less potent offense, and so there is no reason that they cannot win 20-30% of those games with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist, Sprong, and company.
Let’s just hope this is the start of a Penguins team that shows some resilience and starts to win more of these types of games.
Anyways, let’s get into the recap from last night’s 4-3 shootout win over the Habs. Here we go:
PENS GOAL (00:13) – Dupuis (2) assisted by Crosby (6) and Bennett (2)
It took the Pens just 13 seconds to get on the board. Beau Bennett carried the puck into the zone along the left side of the ice and dropped a pass to Dupuis while getting pressured. Dupuis sent a pass around the back of the net that ended up on the stick of Crosby on the other side of the ice. Dupuis followed his pass, drove straight to the net, and deflected in a pass from Crosby to give the Pens an early lead.
Just about 3 minutes into the period, Phil Kessel walked out in front of the net and put a shot on goal. Condon made the save, but Kessel found his own rebound and put on another shot on goal. It was a great chance, but Condon denied it.
HABS PP GOAL (04:12) – Markov (2) assisted by Subban (14) and Plekanec (9)
Plekanec had the puck down low on the power play and swung a pass up to PK Subban. Subban then fed a pass that was put on a platter for Markov who blasted one home past Fleury to tie the game. The puck just snuck through Fleury’s armpit area, and Fleury should have stopped it, but it did look like the shot was deflected slightly by something in front.
10 minutes into the period, Hornqvist had a great opportunity. Nick Bonino had the puck behind the goal in the offensive zone and found a wide open Hornqvist just a few feet in front of Condon. Hornqvist got a good shot off, but Condon stood tall and kept the game tied.
With about 7 minutes left in the period, the Penguins were on the power play. Kessel put a shot on goal that was partially blocked, but found Malkin behind the defense who put a quick low shot on Condon. Unfortunately, once again, Condon was ready for it.
PENS GOAL (19:16) – Maatta (2) assisted by Kessel (5) and Malkin (8)
This goal originally looked like it was Kessel’s, but upon further review, the goal went to Maatta. Maatta carried the puck into the offensive zone in a 3 on 2 situation. He dropped a pass off to Kessel and immediately drove to the net. Kessel then ripped a quick wrist shot on goal that deflected off of Maatta and past Condon to give the Pens the lead. Both goals for the Pens came in the first minute and last minute of the period respectively.
After 1: Pens 2 Habs 1
6 minutes in, Crosby made a very bad blind behind the back pass that turned into a odd man rush for the Canadiens. Eller came up the left wing with the puck, gave a pass to Galchenyuk, who one touched a pass right back to Eller who put a quick one-timer on Fleury, but Fleury denied it.
HABS GOAL (7:47) – Gallagher (7) assisted by Pacioretty (7)
Pacioretty had the puck in the defensive zone, and noticed that 2 of his guys were up the ice behind the Penguins defense. He flipped a weak backhand pass that squirted through the skates of Ian Cole, and turned into a 2 on 0 rush. Gallagher did not need to other man however, as he fired the puck past Fleury’s glove side. Cole needed to stop that puck, even if it meant going down to a knee or whatever. He had 2 opposing players behind him, and he cannot let that happen.
HABS GOAL (14:12) – Flynn (2) assisted by Mitchell (5) and Subban (15)
Torrey Mitchell had the puck in the neutral zone. He passed the puck to Matt Flynn who was absolutely flying into the offensive zone. He came down the right side and put a shot on Fleury that snuck right between his right arm and his body and found the back of the net. This was a tough goal for Fleury to give up, and one that he normally stops.
The Habs outshot the Penguins 13-1 in the period, and the Penguins one shot was actually an attempted pass that ended up being on goal. It was a rough period for the Pens, and a comeback seemed unlikely, especially with their recent history in that department.
After 2: Pens 2 Habs 3
4 minutes into the period, Kessel nearly tied the game. Malkin found Kessel streaking up the ice and was in a one on one with Markov. He made a slick move around Markov, deking forehand to backhand, but Condon made the stop once again. It was a huge save.
With just 8 minutes to go, Kunitz was behind the net in the offensive zone, skated to the front, and let a quick low wrist shot go. Condon made a save, but the puck found the stick on Bonino. He beat Condon, but did not beat the post, and the Habs maintained their lead.
PENS GOAL (13:35) – Hornqvist (3) assisted by Crosby (7) and Letang (6)
This play happened because Sidney Crosby is Sidney Crosby. Letang had the puck in the Penguins zone and fired a puck off the boards to get the puck out. The puck came to Crosby with some speed, who deflected the puck with his skate/stick to an in-flight Patric Hornqvist, who skated the puck into the zone and went thin mints on Condon to tie the game at 3. The pass by Crosby was absolutely ridiculous.
The Penguins had a power play for basically the last 2 minutes of regulation, but they were not able to capitalize. This game needed extra time.
After 3: Pens 3 Habs 3
Once again, the Penguins had a power play chance in what was basically the last 2 minutes of overtime. Except this one was a 4 on 3. Kessel had the puck in the zone, skated it to the right circle, and fired a low shot on Condon. The shot was saved, and the rebound came to the stick on Kris Letang, who beat Condon, but did not beat the post behind him. This must have been the same post Zatkoff used to help him in his last outing. Perron also hit it earlier in the game, as did Bonino.
After OT: Pens 3 Habs 3
The Penguins, as the home team, elected to “defer” and let the Habs shoot first.
Galchenyuk – Save
Galchenyuk came in on Fleury and looked like he wanted to pull off a backhand deke, but he came in too close, and Fleury got him with the poke-check.
Perron – GOAL
David Perron with his vintage move. He skates up the left side of the ice moving ever so slightly to his right. He fakes a wrist shot and goes backhand. It sure worked for him this time.
Desharnais – Save
Desharnais made an interesting move, as he faked a shot by waving his stick over the puck. Fleury fell to his side reaching out for the poke-check. Although he missed, Desharnais could not beat the sprawling Fleury.
Crosby – GOAL
Crosby skated in slow on Condon, and simply just out-deked him. He faked out Condon, went backhand, and beat him to give the Penguins the win in the shootout.
Final Score (SO): Pens 4 Habs 3
Letang and Cole
Although Ian Cole looked good last year, he has been looking anything but good for the Pens this year.
Him and Letang are currently 2 of the worst 3 defensemen in the NHL in plus/minus, and it is not a coincidence that him and Letang are paired together.
I never understoood this pairing to be honest. Cole is a good bottom 6 guy, but he should not be logging Kris Letang type minutes.
In addition, these 2 have not looked good as a pair. At all. Letang even admitted that he feels as though he and Cole are never quite on the same page, which is a cause of concern.
For the third period, Johnston FINALLY put Cole with Scuderi on the bottom pair and reunited Maatta and Letang. It’s about time.
Although I would like these 2 to stay together, Johnston says that they will see more time together in games, but they will not be a lock for a defensive pair. Why?
Because Maatta is apparently not in good enough shape after his rough offseason to log minutes with Kris Letang, who leads the Pens in ice time.
Let’s hope they put Maatta with Letang for the majority of the time, also considering that both Maatta and Letang had new life after being put together as a defensive pair.
Everyone needs to chill out about Crosby. He had 2 assists tonight, and looked absolutely fantastic.
Yeah, his game isn’t perfect, and he can make some adjustments, but he is Sidney Crosby for crying out loud. He is going to be fine, just watch.
In the words of Evgeni Malkin, relax.
Scary moment for Fleury in this game. He took a stick to the face that went through his mask.
Fleury said he lost sight in his one eye for a few seconds, but he ended up okay. He went and got stitches in the cut right above his eye, but he ended up okay.
As always, Fleury is all smiles, even with the cut below his left eye.
Thanks, as always, to those who keep up with me!
I want to start writing more posts/blogs not necessarily related to game action, but rather just about my opinions on some stuff every once in a while, so I will try to get that going as the season goes on.
The Penguins go from playing the best to the worst, as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow at 7.