Why is it that our Pittsburgh Penguins need adversity before they show up and play a full game? Why do they have to get the stuffing beat out of them before they play some defense? Why do they need to have a defenseman get injured before they show signs of life? But that is what happened last night as the Penguins beat the Edmonton Oilers 2 -1 in over-time.
Edmonton cannot be confused with Tampa Bay right now. Edmonton’s record is 2 -5 -1. They are hardly the class of the west. So, beating them is something the Penguins should do. And even though Edmonton boast last year’s MVP Connor McDavid, the $12.5 million dollar man, and Leon Draisaitl the $8.5 million dollar man, holding the Oilers to 1 goal over 60 minutes and some OT change hardly constitutes a big deal either; they are dead last in the league in goals per game (1.88). The Oilers are struggling right now, so this was a good time to catch them, before they remember how to play.
What was encouraging about this win was how the Penguins played. They did not play soft. They came out and attacked. They assaulted Cam Talbot with 15 shots in the first period and could have easily blown out the Oilers if not for Talbot. They had some very good looks at the net.
During the second period, it was Edmonton’s turn and they threw the kitchen sink at the Penguins, but both Matt Murray and the Penguins team D stood the test. Murray in his usual unflappable style turned away great scoring opportunity after great scoring opportunity, including a miraculous paddle save, swatting a puck out of harm’s way that was ticketed for a wide open back door goal. And despite being knocked for having a slow glove, he flashed the leather on hard open shot to the low corner.
Although the Penguins shooters put more pucks on net (44-30), Edmonton took more shots (65-61). However, the Penguins defense blocked 26 of those shots and between the back pressure they put on the puck and the fort that Murray is, the Penguins gave the Oilers precious little at which to shoot; Edmonton missed the net another 9 times.
The Penguins also responded to the heavy hitting Oilers, nearly matching them in hits; 23 for the Penguins and 26 for the Oilers. On what may not have been the hardest hit of the evening but certainly a more noticeable one, Jake Guentzel, unceremoniously, drove McDavid into the boards and nearly into the benches.
Ian Cole finally broke the ice in this thrilling goaltender’s duel, floating a puck under the crossbar on Talbot’s stick side, after taking a feed from Ryan Reeves. The big Right Winger, fought for the puck along the boards before getting the puck back to Cole. New-comer Riley Sheahan started the play, getting the puck over to Reaves, before barging to the net and giving Cole a needed screen, blocking Talbot’s view. Carl Hagelin also provided some solid corner work to help Sheahan get the puck to Reaves.
Cole would later go on to help out Murray and temporarily preserve the lead on a scramble in the crease. He dove back into the crease to block a shot and the puck went under his body. Murray scrambled back to try and get the puck himself before Cole would get called for covering the puck in the crease. Both Cole and Murray were the beneficiaries’ of a quick whistle.
McDavid finally got a shot past Murray with only 2:53 to play when he raced in, down the left wing to catch up with a soft dump in and rip the puck high glove side. Ruhwedel tried to provide some back pressure, but McDavid was wide open and got the puck off just before Ruhwedel could get a stick out to block it. That sent the game into overtime.
Last overtime game the Penguins played, Evgeni Malkin was the hero, taking a pass from Phil Kessel to ice that game. Tonight, he returned the favor sending Kessel streaking in down the slot to rip a shot back across Talbot to his stick side as Talbot moved from the stick side post to square up on Kessel.
Justin Schultz update;
Justin Schultz took an elbow to the head, early in the first period. He left the ice and didn’t return. In a post-game interview Mike Sullivan, responding to a question about Schultz said that he sustained a concussion and was going through the concussion protocol. In the preseason and early part of the regular season, the league was cracking down on face-off infractions and slashing penalties to the hands, but apparently it is still open season on head shots.