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Pregame

Danton Heinen is back and in place of Jason Zucker for this game, otherwise the Penguins are getting them close like they have been for most of this long winning streak.

Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers can’t even freeze the entire compliment of players. The illness that ravaged their team knocked out Matthew Tkachuk, and Florida must roll with just 11 forwards.

First period

The Panthers get the first goal of the game early. Erik Staal takes a shot on net and Tristan Jarry misses the rebound, but Ryan Lomberg does and puts it into the net. 1-0 Florida early.

“Panthers” takes the first penalty of the game. apparently you CAN be fined for removing an opponent’s helmet (CC: recent playoff refs). However, the Pens don’t score.

Jake Guentzel takes a big hit, but could soldier on.

Shots in the first 11-10 in favor of FLA after 20 minutes. The Pens owe Jarry a debt of gratitude for making it just 1-0.

Second period

Jan Rutta makes the first of his two trips to the penalty box in the second period, but it ends up being a shorthanded Pittsburgh goal. Ryan Pauling does a nice job, just sort of golfing the ball into space, and Brian Rust moves for a 2-on-1. Rust plays a nice stepback to Kris Letang, who jumps into the game. Letang finishes it deftly with some touch to just lift it and over the face of Sergey Bobrovsky. 1-1 game.

The Pens get back on the power play a little later and they get a PPG for the seventh straight game. Evgeni Malkin turns up the heat with a long shot and Jake Guentzel is in front to redirect it. Simple, effective. 2-1 Pens lead.

The rest of the time is the Tristan Jarry show. Florida probably has four or five glorious chances to score, but they don’t get much more than that. The Pens’ netminder was out of his mind and making big save after big save.

Rutta returns for a penalty as time expires, but the Pens keep it square.

Second shots 18-12 in favor of FLA. One of Jarry’s best periods of the season ensured the scoring situation went 2-0 in favor of the Pens in the middle of the second.

Third period

Pittsburgh wipes out the rest of the penalty in the third period and eventually gets another power play when Aaron Ekblad cleans up a penalty on the glass. The Pens are back to the simple “man to the net and direct him long shot” but this time to painful consequences. Sidney Crosby ends up slapping and this time it’s Malkin on the right side of the net. The slapper digs Malkin above the knee pad and below his pants. The good news is that when it hits Malkin’s leg, it ricochets into the net. The bad news is that it’s the most painful way to score in a while.

Malkin has been sidelined for some time and needs help leaving the game. Unfortunately, with 2:09 left, the Pens give that goal right back as Carter Verhegge makes a pass right through Jake Guentzel, Chad Ruhwedel and Ruta, and Sam Reinhart is able to quickly shoot past Jarry. 3-2 Pens with 9:46 left to cruise in this game.

As the game wore on, Florida didn’t really show much real desperation, but they got Bobrovsky and Guentzel’s second goal of the night, this time on an empty net, to forfeit the win and make the final score 4-4. 2.

Some thoughts

  • Hands up, I have to admit that within seconds of Ryan Lomberg scoring, my mental memory tricked him into thinking he was one-time New York Ranger Ryan Hollweg, but that wasn’t true. That wasn’t the case, as Hollweg hasn’t played in the NHL since 2010, as you may well recall. I think the old, random Rangers (Eric Staal, Marc Staal, etc.) are retiring early in Florida.
  • This one should open, end and start with Tristan Jarry. He’s been playing very, very well for about a month now, but tonight was on another level. Excellent goaltending for the Pens in this game. The first 30-35 minutes from Pittsburgh were pretty blah. Jarry was by far their best player and kept them close so they could win it.
  • Two power play goals that were basically scored the same way. Get a guy to the front of the net, shoot it and deflect it in. Ideally, not with our thighs next time. Poor Geno, tough way to score, I hope it’s just a sore bruise and nothing more, which is really easy to say when your foot doesn’t have to take a Sidney Crosby slap.
  • Kris Letang, as usual, led the Pens in ice time in this game (25:44). It’s not remarkable because it almost always happens and it’s a big number. What’s remarkable, though, is that Letang’s skating looks exceptionally strong, even by his standards. He jumped up in the play for short, but around the ice and it stood out all night. Letang hasn’t had a smooth season, but for my money, this was as good a game as he just turned the ice. (He also had that goal, plus an assist, which is nice, but even beyond that, he’s just as good as he’s ever been, and probably about the best he’s had all season.)
  • Terrible night for Rutta. Two trips to the penalty box and he was also on the ice for both of Florida’s goals. Rutta and Brian Dumoulin continue to sink in the Corsi and randomness department. The winning games mask their performance a bit, but 8-44 isn’t a pretty picture on the ice, usually bad things happen to the Pens and they fish out of their own net.
  • Have noticed a trend over the years that Jake Guentzel will make a monster shot and usually finish balls. We all know Guentzel isn’t big, and he takes maybe more than his fair share of abuse, but that never stops him and more often than not seems to push him forward from there. Classic “little brother” syndrome to take punishment and not get over it. It happened again early in this game, getting rattled and finding a way to avoid it and score two goals.
  • Danton Heinen went to the penthouse with the second line, and the results. 13:48 played, one shot on goal, one turnover, one offensive penalty. It’s not exactly a hair-raising performance.
  • The Pens finished with 39 shots on goal, but six skaters (1/3 of the lineup) finished with zero or one SOG. The front linemen combined for 17 shots in all situations. Add in Letang and Peterson, and it was 22 of 39 shooting, or nearly 56%. Malkin and Rust have also been active, but this team right now is being carried on the broad shoulders of their top players.

Still, that’s a win and seven in a row. The Pens now get a few more days off and prepare to play on the road in Carolina on Sunday against a strong team that Pittsburgh never seems to beat these days. They need to find a way to continue this winning streak.



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