The Pittsburgh Penguins faced their second back-to-back scenario in a week. This time instead of dropping both games, Pittsburgh managed to pick up a win in Washington on Wednesday night before losing a wild game in Tampa on Thursday.
While there was a lot to like in the two games, such as the power play, the great shutdown-forecheck on display versus Washington, outshooting both opponents comfortably, and a REALLY strong third period versus Tampa when the team should have been out of gas…..there was more to not like as well.
Yet again in a back to back situation the second game was full of turnovers, and poor defensive zone play. Again, Antti Niemi fell victim to the lax zone coverage. But Niemi doesn’t get a free pass for that. There were several saves that he would like to have back, including the game winner by Slater Koekkoek in which Niemi’s five-hole was more of a ten-hole.
The veteran net minder has now given up nine goals in under two games played as he was pulled in Chicago one week prior. This was the worry coming into the season on how he would spell Matt Murray and thus far, it’s not promising. Neither is being out scored in the second game of back-to-back situation by a whopping 15-5. With the most of those situations in the league this year, it will be on Coach Mike Sullivan to correct the sloppiness and poor play defensively shown thus far.
Making matters worse was the absence of Ian Cole, who was put on IR with facial injuries this week. Chad Ruhwedel took over Cole’s spot in the line up.
It would also be nice if he could find a way to get Niemi a confidence boost in terms of opponent…..on the road versus Chicago one week, and Tampa the next isn’t exactly the easiest of propositions to face. A home game versus a lighter opponent may be the tonic needed for the troubled veteran goalie.
After falling down 1-0 on Koekkoek’s first goal of the game (and his career) just six minutes into the game, Jake Guentzel would tie it up with a nice redirect of a centering pass from Kris Letang several minutes later. But with 0.1 seconds left in the first, Victor Hedman would rip home a power play goal to give all the momentum to Tampa.
Pittsburgh from there would continue to fall down by two goals, and bring it back within one for the rest of the evening.
In addition to Guentzel, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Matt Hunwick would tally for the Pens, Hunwick’s being his first since coming to Pittsburgh from Toronto in the off-season. In addition to Koekkoe’s two goals, Steven Stamkos added a power play goal which was his first marker since November 15th, 2016. Forward Alex Kilorn had four points for Tampa.
Niemi would finish the game with 29 saves on 34 shots, while Tampa netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 out of 40.
Chris Kunitz faced his former Penguin teammates for the first time since signing with Tampa as a free-agent in the off season. Kunitz would pick up an assist on the first goal and log over ten minutes of ice time.
Pittsburgh would finish 1 for 5 on the power play, Tampa ended 2 for 5
Pittsburgh returns home to face the Florida Panthers Saturday night at PPGPA.
On Wednesday in the Nation’s Capital Patric Hornqvist returned to the line up in his first game action of the season since having hand surgery following last Spring’s Cup and he would make an immediate impact by assisting on Kris Letang’s opening goal before going to work in his favorite spot to get the club’s second goal in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals.
In a reversal of Thursday’s Lightning game, the Penguins stifled the Caps with an excellent forecheck and constant pressure, much the same way they ended their second round series in Game 7 last spring.
In addition to Letang and Hornqvist, Conor Sheary would find the back of the net. All three Pittsburgh goals cam on the power play as Pittsburgh finished 3 for 6 with the man advantage.
Matt Murray would make 20 of 22 saves, his counterpart Braden Holtby would stop 33 of 36.
It was more of the same as the Penguins continued to take up rent space in the minds of the Caps fans and players, with TJ Oshie mentioning he had a bad taste in his mouth and was looking forward to this game.
Oshie would finish the night with one shot on goal…..that’s it……one. Good thing the Caps are now paying him until he’s like 50 years old, that’ll work out well.
One thing that is working well for Washington is Alex Ovechkin, he scored his eigth goal of the season already to draw the Caps within 3-2 in the third. The trimmed down Russian bear is on fire this season so far.
The Pens and Caps will get back together on November 10th in D.C. for their second of four meetings.
Stay tuned for our coverage of Pittsburgh and Florida on Saturday night, right here at Pittsburgh Sports Castle!