Before the match
With Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith injured and unavailable to play, the Penguins are now turning to 28-year-old Maxime Lagace for his 18th career NHL game, first as a Penguin. Chad Ruhwedel is also in a game for the first time in months.
At first, the game has all the intensity of a September preseason game. Pens are doing very, very little despite the period’s only power play. Michael Houser only sees three shots in the first, and only one of them was a dangerous chance when Sidney Crosby fed Jake Guentzel on a 2v1. Guentzel got a nice shot but was stolen by a slippery save from Houser.
At the other end, Buffalo got 11 shots, but few were dangerous. Pittsburgh did well to keep the Sabers on the outside, but Maxime Lagace had to make a great save on a Riley Sheahan on a clock.
The shots end 11-3 in favor of Buffalo in the first.
Pittsburgh was undoubtedly encouraged during the intermission to pick up the pace a bit and start the period playing better. They score 1:58, on a lucky rebound as a reward for their hard work and going to the net. Frederick Gaudreau continues to shake things up, stealing a puck behind the Buffalo net and quickly crossing it for Jeff Carter. A Saber player deflected the pass, which took off with a stick, then Carter’s arm and into the net. 1-0 Pittsburgh. When you live well you live well and everything is going Jeff Carter way right now.
The rest of the period, the Sabers have the best of the game. They get their first power play when Jared McCann trips and throws a lot of rubber in Lagace’s direction. The keeper continues to fight and does very well to keep him in front of him thanks to a barrage of chances.
Shots in the second period are 13-6 Buffalo and 24-9 overall. Thanks to some great goalkeepers and a lucky rebound, the Pens are lucky enough to be ahead 1-0 at this point.
The game continues. Lagace made another excellent save, this time on Victor Olofsson halfway to keep the Pens ahead.
Evgeni Malkin descends on the ice awkwardly and looks uncomfortable, only taking a shift for a few seconds afterward. Cool cool.
At 4:38 left, Rasmus Ristolainen boarded Guentzel and Pittsburgh left for their second power play of the game. The pens don’t mark but it kills two minutes late.
Buffalo shoots the goalie for a 6-5 chance and calls for a timeout with 1:03 to go to regroup. They can’t break Lagace as the game draws to a close.
- The Penguins weren’t bright or full of energy, but it was also the finish line of a condensed season and a fifth game in eight days. It’s an almost unheard of stretch in normal season, but barely blinks this year. But the players are feeling it and it is wreaking havoc on the body.
- The only thing Pittsburgh had to do was come out of this game clean and avoid injury. It may or may not have happened with Malkin in the third period. He fell awkwardly while trying to take a puck away from a player and may also have caught a skate. His body language didn’t seem to be that comfortable, but at least there will be several days before the playoffs. Malkin hasn’t left for the locker room, but he hasn’t played on the late power-play either, which isn’t a good sign.
- Two nights ago, an 8-4 goal-fest. Today, a 1-0 game pretty much all day. Same teams, very different energy in this one.
- Maxime Lagace: Mr. Game 56? Great job on his part today to come out of nowhere and get his first career NHL shutout and help his team secure a crucial victory.
- The Pens end with a 22-4-2 home record for the season. Sensational stuff there.
- And now the Pens are at the finish line awaiting the results around the league (no longer in tomorrow’s Sunday standings). With today’s win, Pittsburgh will be the No. 2 seed in the East at worst, and could clinch the top spot tonight if the Washington Capitals don’t win in settlement against the Flyers. Come on Fl… uh, I can’t say it, but you know. Don’t win in 60, Caps. Washington is expected to win its remaining two games (with a game against Boston on Tuesday) to skip the Pens.
And now we wait for the dust to settle and the playoff schedule to be released and see how and when the Pens play next.