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Observations from the Penguins’ 8-6 win against the Vancouver Canucks.
In seemingly any context, allowing six goals would aggravate a coach to no end. It wouldn’t matter if that coach’s team won 800-6 our lost 6-(negative) 800. That six goals represent sloppy, undetailed hockey.
And make no mistake. Wednesday’s game was not anything resembling a tight, defensive struggle with perfect defensive gaps and great stick-on-puck sequences. This was a game where you could miss some offense if you gazed at your phone for a moment.
Despite a score that resembled the first quarter of a football game more than a hockey contest, the Penguins were seemingly happy with not only the result, obviously, but how they played.
They certainly weren’t happy with giving up six goals but they didn’t mind how they gave up six goals.
If that makes sense.
“Early on, they had one chance and they scored,” forward Bryan Rust said. “Chances might have been 9-1 after the first period for us or something like that. They had (three) shots. The second period, I don’t think we liked some of the chances we gave up, a lot of real good quality ones. We’d like to tighten up a little bit and pay attention to details a little bit more there.”
That brings us to the goaltending. It wasn’t good.
Matt Murray was bad. Tristan Jarry was only a little better.
Murray started and allowed four goals on only 14 shots. He was replaced by Jarry who yielded two goals on eight shots.
Murray did not speak after the game. Jarry, who got the win, did.
“You’re just trying to get the win,’ Jarry said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s a team game. You’re not looking at personal stats. That will come as the team does well. Everything about it is about the team and doing what you can for the win.”
The Penguins got one of their most thrilling, exciting wins in recent history. But it certainly wasn’t because of their goaltending.
The Penguins took the game’s first lead only 2:29 into regulation. Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin beat Canucks forward Adam Gaudette on a draw in Vancouver’s left circle and muscled the puck to forward Jake Guentzel, positioned directly behind him. Guentzel dropped the hammer on a quick one-timer, ala James Neal, which beat Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko’s blocker on the near side. Malkin had the lone assist.
It became a 2-0 contest at 12:53 of the first period with a power-play goal. Taking a pass in the high slot, Malkin sauntered his way wide into the left circle, waited for a seam to open up and fed a cross-ice pass to the opposite circle where Rust was able to lift a wrister past the glove of a scrambling Demko. Assists went to Malkin and Guentzel.
Coraopolis native J.T. Miller got the Canucks on the scoreboard at the 16:42 mark of the first. After Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel got caught flat-footed in the neutral zone on a failed poke check, Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes pushed the puck up the left wing creating a three-on-one with Miller and forward Zack MacEwen against Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson. As Pettersson kneeled down in a futile attempt to prevent a pass, Hughes fed the puck from the left circle to the right circle where Miller went forehand to backhand and lifted a shot over the glove hand of a helpless Murray. Assists went to Hughes and forward Bo Horvat.
The game was tied, 2-2, at 7:17 of the second. Canucks forward Jake Virtanen gained the offensive zone on the left wing and pulled in Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. As Canucks forward Brock Boeser approached the net from the right wing and drew the attention of Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, the slot was left wide open for Canucks forward Elias Pettersson. Virtanen fed a forehand pass to the open Elias Pettersson who took the ample time and space he was afforded and ripped a wrister past Murray’s right shoulder. Virtanen and Hughes netted assists.
Vancouver took its first lead at 18:20 of the second. Gaining the offensive zone on the right wing, McEwen chipped a puck past Dumoulin to the left circle. Virtanen got behind Letang to claim the puck then tucked a backhander under Murray’s left leg for the score. Assists went to MacEwen and defenseman Chris Tanev.
Only 41 seconds later, the Canucks made it a 4-2 game. Hughes launched a wrister from the left point on net. Murray made the initial save then denied forward Josh Levio on the rebound attempt. Gaudette fought off Marcus Pettersson and cleaned up the second rebound chance with a forehand shot past Murray’s glove. As the Canucks celebrated, Jarry replaced Murray to a round of cheers of locals who were growing restless on Thanksgiving Eve. Leivo and Hughes collected assists.
Guentzel scored again a mere 61 seconds into the third. After Rust forced Canucks defenseman Jordie Benn into a turnover in the Vancouver right corner, Guentzl claimed the puck, swooped around the cage and emerge in the left circle where he flung a backhander which squeaked through Demko’s gear. Rust had the lone assist.
Vancouver cashed in with another power-play goal at 2:31 of the third by Miller. Boeser blasted a slapper from the left circle wide of the net. The puck hit off the end boards and deflected to the right circle where Miller claimed it and whipped a wrister which glanced off of Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson’s stick and fluttered under Jarry’s blocker. Boeser and Elias Pettersson were credited with assists.
Vancouver poured it on only 35 seconds later. Pushing a puck into the left circle, Gaudette deked past a stick check by Letang and ripped a wrister past Jarry’s glove hand on the far side. Former Penguins forward Tanner Pearson had the only assist.
The Penguins took advantage of a four-on-four sequence and scored at 6:16 of the third. Beating Benn for a puck in the left circle, Penguins forward Jared McCann lifted wrister on net which Demko fought off. Penguins forward Dominik Kahun fended off Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers and swatted in the rebound with a backhand from the left of the crease. McCann and Marcus Pettersson had assists.
Only 1:08 later, Malkin cranked a slapper from above the left circle for a power-play score. After Penguins defenseman John Marino made a careless pass out of his own zone and allowed a puck to sit loose inside the blue line, Canucks forward Tim Schaller overskated it and allowed Rust to claim possession. Surging into the neutral zone, Rust made a simple forehand pass to Malkin who gained the offensive zone on the right wing. Pulling up above the right circle, Malkin blasted a shot past Demko’s blocker on the far side. Assist went to Rust and Marino.
At 10:30, the game was tied again. Off a feed for forward Zach Aston-Reese, Marino pumped a one-timer from center point. Demko made the save but allowed a rebound which Aston-Reese swatted from the left circle into the cage. Assists were credited to Marino and forward Brandon Tanev.
They reclaimed the lead for good at 16:54. Taking a pass behind the net, Guentzel dealt a pass to the top of the right circle where Letang stroked a one-timer past Demko’s left shoulder on the near side. Guentzel and Malkin netted assists. The Canucks issued a coach’s challenge on the basis of the sequence being offside but were unsuccessful.
An empty netter by Malkin at 19:59 secured victory. Rust and Letang padded their stats with assists.
• The Penguins led in shots, 40-22.
• Rust led the game with seven shots.
• Defensemen Alexander Edler, Troy Stecher, Boeser, Horvat, Miller, Myers, Pettersson and Virtanen each led the Canucks with two shots.
• Edler led the game with 25:25 of ice time on 28 shifts.
• Letang led the Penguins with 24:46 of ice time on 30 shifts.
• The Penguins led in faceoffs, 34-28 (55 percent).
• Malkin as 11 for 18 (61 percent).
• Horvat was 13 for 25 (52 percent).
• Edler led the game with six blocked shots.
• Letang led the Penguins with four blocked shots.
• Guentzel (182 points) surpassed forward Rick Tocchet (179) for 45th place on the franchise’s career scoring list.
• Guentzel tied a career high with four points. He initially set the mark with two goals and two assists in a 5-1 road win against the Montreal Canadiens on March 2.
• Rust (131 points) surpassed forwards Al McDonough (130) and Ross Lonsberry (129) for 70th place on the franchise’s career scoring list.
• Rust tied a career high with four points. He initially set the mark with a