Stop me if you heard this one before–the Pittsburgh Penguins beat their opponent, at home, in PPG Paints Arena, 2 – 1, in overtime, on a goal by Phil Kessel.
Wasn’t it the very quotable Yogi Berra who once said “Deja-vu all over again”? Well, that was what it pretty much felt like last night. With Kessel playing the trick on the Jets; the Penguins’ faithful were treated to another Phil “the Thrill” ride and a goaltending duel on the last home game before Halloween. The victory gave the Penguins another 2 points to raise their Points total to 15. 3 more than second place challengers New Jersey and Columbus. Columbus has 2 games in hand and New Jersey 3, so those 2 points were much needed to put the pressure on those clubs to keep pace.
Conor Sheary opened the scoring, just a minute and 25 seconds into the opening frame, on a play that started with solid two-way, 200-foot playing by Sidney Crosby, who picked up the puck at the goal-line to start the break-out, catching Jake Guentzel in flight up the ice and out of the zone. Guentzel cruised the puck into the Jets zone before threading a beautiful pass into the slot for Sheary who burst into the zone with Guentzel with speed down the slot. Sheary grabbed inside position on the Jets defense and coolly deflected the puck on his backhand passed Connor Hellebuyck.
Josh Morrissey got credit for pulling the visitors even, later that period, at 9:26 when Bryan Little won the draw from Riley Sheahan, pulling the puck back to Morrissey who took a couple of steps and then fired a shot that looked like it was going wide until Kris Letang reached out his stick to deflect the puck passed his own Goaltender, otherwise the game may have ended in regulation.
At that point the Goalies stole the show. Matt Murray turned away 30 shots, many of them great scoring opportunities to beat the Jets. His lone blemish:the shot Letang tipped past him. Going into the game last night, Hellebuyck was the lone starting goalie to still be unbeaten and he and his teammates did their best to keep things that way as Hellebuyck, himself turned away 32 shots and his defense blocked another 20.
Unfortunately for Hellebuyck and the Jets, Kessel ruined their night at 1:07 of the OT period for his 300th career goal. The play began when young gun Patrik Laine turned the puck over trying to feather a pass through to the slot that Kessel picked off. Kessel was pretty much standing still as he blocked the pass, while Laine was in full flight turning and swooping towards him but this Penguin must have stolen the legendary Batmobile, because he went from 0 – 60 in unbelievable time; “atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed.” Kessel rocketed up ice, teaching the Jets that Penguins can most certainly fly, only slowing down a fraction right before ripping a wrist shot through the 5-hole for the OT winner. Certainly a 300th goal to remember.
Our Penguins generated 70 total shot attempts to Winnipeg’s 54. Lopsided numbers like that do start to remind you of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2015-2016. Now if only our Penguins can whittle the shots on goal below 30.
This and that;
Zac Trotman played his first regular season game as a Penguin, logging 12 minutes and 9 seconds, 1 minute and 32 seconds on the power play and recording 2 shots on goal and 1 hit. The Penguins’ Power Play went 0 – 4 last night and is 0 – 7 since Justin Schultz was injured.
The Penguins start a 5 game road trip on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild at the front end of their next back-to-back series, facing the same Winnipeg Jets again on Sunday to close out the month of October.