Maatta’s late tally helps Penguins beat slumping Coyotes

Posted on Dec 17 2017 - 1:29pm by Shalene Hixon
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Photo of Carter Rowney and Bryan Rust courtesy of Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images.

Looking to right the ship, the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins traveled to Glendale to face the Arizona Coyotes. They’ve had their struggles as well, losing three games in a row.

Both teams wanted to end their losing streaks, but it was Pittsburgh who was able to do so.

The game started off with neither team commanding play. The Pens’ powerplay had a chance to strike early when Max Domi was called for roughing, but they could barely stay in the offensive zone.

They had another chance after Oliver Ekman-Larsson was sent off for tripping, but once again could not get anything going.

For the rest of the first period, each team would trade chances with neither one establishing clear dominance.

Right before the horn sounded, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Goligoski were both penalized for slashing. The period ended with each team playing four-on-four hockey.

The second began with the Penguins gaining momentum and spending more time in the Coyotes’ zone. They consistently had good shifts and started to get more shots on Antti Raanta. They were awarded one powerplay when Domi was called for tripping.

While nothing came of that one, the Pens got another one right after when Domi received his third penalty for delay of game. But once again, they did everything but put the puck in the net.

The Coyotes got their first powerplay when Ian Cole was called for interference with 5:40 left in the second period. Since the Pens couldn’t score on the powerplay, they figured they would try on the penalty kill.

Carter Rowney (assisted by Bryan Rust) beat Raanta shorthanded on a two-on-one to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.

Arizona tried to battle back, but Matt Murray stayed strong in net. The Pens made sure to give him some insurance just before the end of the second.

Malkin (assisted by Phil Kessel and Conor Sheary) chipped it into the net to increase the Pens’ lead to 2-0.

But with eight seconds left in the period, Nick Cousins struck back to cut the lead to one.

The Coyotes came out of the second intermission flying, but Murray continued to make saves. When Cole was penalized for cross-checking, the Pens’ penalty killers made sure Arizona couldn’t capitalize.

However, sloppy play in the defensive zone allowed Domi to tie the game up at 2 with 10 minutes remaining. Sidney Crosby and Sheary tried to give the Pens the lead shortly after, but neither were able to hit the open net.

No matter what Pittsburgh did, they could not score as time ticked away. That was until Olli Maatta (assisted by Malkin and Patric Hornqvist) gave the Pens the lead with less than 15 seconds left in the game.

The Coyotes pulled Raanta for the extra attacker, but Sidney Crosby (unassisted) scored an empty net goal to put the game away and give his team the 4-2 win.

Final Thoughts

First off, congrats to head coach Mike Sullivan for his 100th career win behind the Penguins’ bench.

I’m glad they got the win, but it shouldn’t have been that difficult. They were about to give possibly two points away if it wasn’t for Maatta. The Coyotes are the kind of team they should have beat easily, but that hasn’t been the case for most of the season.

The Pens’ powerplay struggled in Vegas and it continued to struggle against Arizona, going 0 for 4. With goals coming sparingly in five-on-five action, the powerplay needs to start producing again.

On the flip side, the Pens’ penalty killers have been a bright spot for the team lately. They successfully killed of the Coyotes’ two powerplays and have been playing very well.

However, the team as a whole hasn’t been consistent for a while now, and General Manager Jim Rutherford is not pleased. It should be interesting to see if any trades occur in the coming weeks.

The Penguins travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche on Monday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 9:00 p.m.