Penguins / Canadiens recap: Missed opportunities return to bite Pittsburgh in 3-2 OT loss

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Programming

The Penguins are going as planned with the lines they used for most of the period leading up to this first game.

No surprise to Canadians either.

First period

The pens come out all the a’blazin ‘guns! The boys are buzzing early, no doubt. Evgeni Malkin had two great shots early, but Carey Price is strong to make saves. The first 10 shots on goal of the period go 9-1 in Pittsburgh as Montreal struggles to keep the Pens at bay, counting on their goaltender to help them out.

Time flies and Jack Johnson makes his presence known in the 2020 playoffs. Sadly, but predictably, that means costing Pittsburgh a goal as Johnson breathes a hit, then collides with his own teammate and ultimately throws a failure on a player towards his own net, helping a rebounding puck to hit Jesperi Kotkaniemi and in the past Matt Murray. 1-0 Montreal.

The Canadiens get the first power play of the game when Marcus Pettersson throws a hit. MTL has a good chance, but overall it’s a pretty good kill by the Pens’ PKs.

Pittsburgh gets its power play shot when Sidney Crosby is downed by Phillip Danault. Being an excellent defensive center, it gives the Pens a double opportunity to gain a power play with Danault stuck in the box.

The first unit is brand new, Kris Letang is back replacing Justin Schultz, and Jason Zucker is set for Patric Hornqvist to join the mainstays of Malkin, Crosby and Jake Guentzel. The PP play like they’ve never played together, although they have a chance to score when a point shot from Letang enters the traffic and clicks the post. Guentzel is totally devastated (in a way Hornqvist never seems to do) and is unavailable to work for the rebound.

The strokes in the first are 18-6 pens. Carey Price was big, a bouncing puck on a strange play provided the advantage.

Second period

The Pens are caught again, Brian Dumoulin tries to pinch and hold the puck, but Nick Suzuki passes in front of him and goes into the race with a 2 against 1. Suzuki rushes to the left side and with his right shot, sees a lot of net when Murray falls and blows a shot over his shoulder to extend the lead to 2-0.

Finally, the pens strike back. Sidney Crosby does things with Sidney Crosby, taking a hard shot from behind the goal line and cashing the puck into the net next to Price. 2-1 now.

The Pens get a second power play when Jonathan Drouin gets caught on the hook. Murray has to make a hell of a stop on Joel Armia with a 2-on-1 the other way around… And then the Pens give up another 2-on-1 as Letang makes a sprawling dive block.

It pays off and Rust ties the game up on the power play with the second group after a shot from Jared McCann hits Patric Hornqvist and comes out for Rust to bring home. 2-2 game

The shots in the 2nd are 13-8 Montreal, but overall it’s 24-19 Pens. With the game tied at 2 on the most important indicator.

Third period

30 seconds after the start of the period, defensive ace Phillip Danault takes his second penalty of the game. Then, just 28 seconds later, Ben Chariot opts for high grip to give the pens an extended 5v3 power play.

They don’t score in a huge missed opportunity.

McCann left for a puck-on-glass game delay shortly after, Pens’ PK held on and Murray made some big saves like this to cut luck on the ice.

Paul Byron is called in for interference giving the PP pens another chance and they… arrive empty.

Then Conor Sheary walks in alone on a breakaway and gets hooked by Brett Kulak drawing a rare playoff penalty shot with about 3 minutes left in a draw and surely that’s it, right? … Not so fast, Sheary can’t even hit the net when he tries to take a quick, far and low shot on Price. The problem is, it goes too far.

With that, it’ll take some extra hockey.

Overtime

Three minutes after extra time, defensive guru Danault takes his THIRD penalty of the match, putting MTL far behind the 8-ball and surely the Pens will now score with the Habs to the disadvantage of a man and a big PK, n ‘ is this not?

Faux.

Montreal kills him. Shortly after, Jonathan Drouin steps on Jack Johnson who must hook Drouin. Penalty shot in OT. My God. For such a good teammate like JJ it’s a tough place to put the goalie. He will have them next time!

Thankfully, just like Sheary, Drouin escapes PS and can’t even get a shot on goal.

The pens barely hang. Shots are 11-7 MTL in OT. The 12 MTL move ends the game. Guess if this was the Jack Johnson – Justin Schultz pair losing his form and positioning himself to defend the rush?

(Answer: It was the Jack Johnson pair – Justin Schultz losing shape and positioning himself to defend the rush)

Here’s another look, notice how Tanev outclasses his point man and there’s no defender even in the photo. It’s only Zach Aston-Reese trying to block the shot.

And that’s a loss in a quick streak. Understand it.

Some ideas

  • Weird how the Pens’ power play fix went … removing Hornqvist from the front group in favor of Zucker. Out of sheer talent, nothing wrong with that, but just an odd move considering the massive body of evidence that Pittsburgh’s power play works significantly better when Hornqvist is in the lineup. Why delete this on purpose?
  • And the Pens’ PP went 1 for 7. The only goal they scored was the second group, when a point shot hit Hornqvist in front of the net and Rust cleaned out the trash. It shouldn’t be that hard. Zucker from the top group, Hornqvist on it. I have to figure it out at this point.
  • Malkin looked absolutely amazing at first, buzzing all the time, spawning a ton of chances. It’s just an eye test, but Crosby by comparison looked a bit tentative and a slow step. Who knows how badly he is in pain and it is only speculation at this point, but Sid might have to dump a performance as long as the pens last.

  • But since hockey is weird and random, it was Crosby who scored and Malkin who didn’t. Sometimes it is like that.
  • Jack Johnson had a -2, made some major mistakes and that was before he even gave the opponents a penalty shot in overtime after being tenacious. Just a bad comedic performance. It shouldn’t be surprising, it still hurts.
  • Carey Price was good, stopped 39/41, but he still didn’t feel the pens were making it SO difficult for him. Especially having a long 5v3 and a penalty shot in the 3rd period. Should / should have been better.
  • Speaking of, Conor Sheary, come on man! Such a beautiful phase 3. Back to a pumpkin in phase 4. Difficult to take.
  • The Pens pushed the problem further and got a 7-2 PP advantage. They were the best team for the game. I couldn’t finish and had a bad rebound or two.
  • Matt Murray wasn’t the Pens’ problem in this one. 3 goals against in almost 74 minutes. 32 saves on 35 moves (.914% savings). You leave a long 5v3 on the table and miss a penalty shot in the 3rd period and the real problem isn’t the goalie.

Going down 0-1 in a best-of-five is like being down 0-2 in a best-of-seven. It’s not a good place to be.

That said, about 80% of this game was great, even great for Pens. Their power play let them down. Their worst player let them down. The rebounds didn’t work. The other keeper was really good. It’s like all the worst cases add up. But it has to happen two more times before they’re done. So we’ll see what happens on Monday. Win a game and suddenly and it’s a typical 2-2 streak in a best-of-seven. It all depends on how they decide to take up the challenge.



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