before the game
The Penguins make a minor trade to demote Brock McGinn to the fourth line and move Drew O’Connor into the group. Dustin Tokarski earns his third NHL start of the season in this straight situation.
At first, the penguins draw a power play and make it a power play target! Evgeni Malkin takes the puck to the zone and passes it to Rickard Rakell. No one gets in Malkin’s way, so he just drives into the net. Rakell throws a centered pass and Malkin cleverly keeps the puck low and hits Vitek Vanevek who slides between his legs. 1-0 pens.
The buff only lasts 1:20. Chad Ruhwedel turns the right corner towards an officer, which doesn’t help. The Pens seem a bit lost in coverage, Dustin Tokarski is swimming with no real target, and finally, on third down, Dawson Mercers slams the puck into the net. 1-1 game.
Pittsburgh gets a couple more power plays, but goes over the puck and can’t score.
But, stop the presses, Teddy Blueger can score. Only with the feet and kicking the puck into the net. Turns out you can’t do that, so the objective is removed from the board and Blueger stays on one for the season.
Jason Zucker up front is a threat. Brendan Smith found out the hard way.
First period shooting ends 13-12 for the Penguins. Pretty decent period, though they did have a few cracks on the power play to show off most of their best opportunities.
Marcus Pettersson takes a penalty for interference and the Devils quickly take advantage. Nico Hischier beats Blueger in the circle toe-to-toe, eventually retrieving the puck and spinning around the cage. Hischier passes back to Dougie Hamilton and with Tokarski pinned low to guard against a potential wrap play, Hamilton has plenty of space on the other side of the net and finds it. 2-1 New Jersey.
The Pens get another power play, but disaster strikes. Hischier knocks down Kris Letang’s puck and New Jersey goes on the run in a 2 on 1. Hischier passes the pass to Yegor Sharangovich, who returns it and Hischier has an empty net to finish the goal from behind. 3-1 Heck.
The shots in the second half are 16-9 in favor of NJ, which also begins to move away on the scoreboard.
Jersey sends the Pens into a power play, which is good for them right now. Sharangovich gets a clean getaway, but Tokarski throws his leg out to scorpion him.
The Devils use a clinical passing play to tear the Pens apart and Jesper Bratt finishes with authority. Wow. 4-1 with more than 11 minutes left, but it feels like this game is over a long time ago.
The Pens get desperate and pull Tokarski. Jake Guentzel gets a straight look but Vanecek stones him. With that great opportunity blown, the Devils retrieve the puck and Hischier escorts the puck into the empty net in casual fashion. 5-2 New Jersey.
That’s it for this one.
- Well, on the bright side, it’s nice to see Rickard Rakell right now. He’s on a beat, every time he plays the record good things are happening.
- And hey, Evgeni Malkin too! Two goals for the big man. A bit empty, but it’s good to see him come back and break the 20-goal mark for the season.
- On the downside, there’s just about everything else. Pittsburgh in a b-2-b that started about 20 hours after their last game ended and then had to travel back while Jersey waited for them. The Devils are a better team all the same and great on the road. Throw in a third-string goalkeeper and all factors pointed to this not having a great result. Not surprisingly, it did not end well.
- O’Connor to the third line didn’t quite work out to turn things around. another terrifying possession night and two minor penalties for Jeff Carter. Hip Hip Hooray!
- The power play scored one goal, but then he relaxed a lot and allowed one goal and was lucky it was just one. According to Wes Crosby, the Pens have allowed six shorthanded goals this season, tied with San Jose, St. Louis and Florida. Only Vancouver, Detroit and Tampa Bay have allowed more (each with seven).
- Interestingly, today doesn’t hurt Pittsburgh’s future playoff chances much after seeing the Islanders and Panthers lose in other games. How dangerous can they be when they get there? Still very much in doubt.
Another tough night at the office for the Pens. And really, it’s hard to be upset. The Devils are a quality side. Pittsburgh was playing like a third-string goaltender and was in a tough spot at b-2-b. The Pens need a hand to compete in games like these. Right now, outside of a couple key points, most of their players just aren’t good enough.