As the final ticks on the clock faded in the tilt between the Arizona Coyotes and the Pittsburgh Penguins, ending the Penguins’ 3 game slide, all I could hear was Ringo Starr, “You got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues and you know it don’t come easy.”
Our Penguins went up against the worst hockey team in the league right now, a team that has now lost 6 straight games, and nearly lost. To be sure, there were some positives; the Penguins did out shoot the Coyotes 33 to 17, the first time this year they held a team to less than 20 shots. However, they had twice as many power plays as Arizona, 4 – 2, that certainly helps. Possibly balancing out this positive though, the Penguins only managed to get 9 shots in a first period that saw them the beneficiaries of 3 power plays.
Bryan Rust has certainly got to be considered another positive. Going into the game, he already had 2 Shorthanded Goals (SHG) to his name. With the same great anticipation that he had shown on his 2 SHG he started the play that led to the opening goal. Carter Rowney pressured Oliver Ekman-Larrson who tried to force a pass to Max Domi for the Coyotes, while Ian Cole was sitting in the penalty box for cross-checking. Rust cut in front of Domi to steal the pass and raced up ice. He couldn’t beat Ekman-Larrson enough to get a lane to the net, but did get enough of a step on him to cause the Coyotes’ defenseman to go down to the ice before Rust slid a deft backhand pass across the slot to a charging Rowney. Rowney wasted little time burying the feed with wrist shot into the roof of the net.
Evgeni Malkin was also a serious positive. He gave Coyotes’ defenders fits with his stick handling and barge the net like Patric Hornqvist to shove the Penguins’ second goal into the net. But it was his tenacity and stick handling that set up the game winner with only 15s left in the game. Actually the whole line worked their collective tail feathers off (do Penguins have tail feathers?) to try and end the game in regulation. After dogged fore-checking by Carl Hagelin, Hornqvist, and Malkin, Hornqvist got the puck to Malkin with some room. Malkin skated the puck up toward the point. With Malkin coming up to the point, Chad Ruhwedel cycled down the boards. Instead of dropping the puck back down to Ruhwedel, Malkin opted to pass across the ice to Olli Maatta, who hammered the puck home.
It was fitting for Maatta to get the Game Winning Goal (GWG) since he made a brilliant defensive play to keep Arizona from winning the game just a little earlier. Jakob Chychrun, son of former Penguin Jeff Chychrun, ripped a shot from near the top of the Penguins Right Wing Circle. Matt Murray made the save but the puck started to trickle between his legs. Brad Richardson saw the puck and was about to pounce on it, but Maatta was strong on the check and kept Richardson from getting his stick on it and in the same motion he (Maatta) swept the puck out of harm’s way and tried to tuck the puck back up under Murray, preserving the tie until he could win it himself.
Sidney Crosby iced the victory with an empty net goal with 6s left in the game.
No, it didn’t come easy, the Penguins had to wait until there were only 15 ticks left on the clock to win it but they did win.
Odds and Sods
Congratulations Mario Lemieux! Lemieux’s historic 5 goal performance, scoring a goal in every possible combination; an even strength goal, a power play goal, a shorthanded goal, a penalty shot, and an empty net goal, beat out Bobby Orr’s game winning goal against the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup for the greatest moment in Hockey as voted on by us Hockey fans. That game was against the New Jersey Devils at the old Civic Arena on New Year’s Eve, Dec 31, 1988.
A couple of interesting news item out of Ottawa on 2 fronts; there is talk that the ownership group might move the Senators out of Ottawa due to financial difficulties and that the team asked captain Erik Karlsson for his list of 10 teams that the Senators could not trade him (like Kris Letang, Karlsson has a limited no trade clause). As our own Phil Krundle noted recently in a reply to some postings, despite the trade for Matt Duchene the Senators are a disaster this year. Now it appears that they may in the mood to hit the reset button, although they did just beat rival Montreal in the Outdoor Classic. The report I read suggested that although there also seems to already be talk, the Penguins are not among the teams in the picture. However, let’s stir the pot, would anyone here make an offer? Would you give Ottawa maybe Letang and a 1st rounder for Karlsson? (Karlsson carries a $7mil tag and Letang is $7.25mil they would still have a good offensive defenseman and could recoup some of what they lost for Duchene. The salary numbers would also work out.)