Well, at least they started out well. The Rangers actually got the game’s first two goals. Then, the Penguins remembered who they are and humiliated the Blueshirts 5-2 at MSG to improve to 3-0 versus our team. They’ve now outscored us 18-9. There’s one game remaining. Yikes.
On what was our second to last home game, at least the home team scored a couple of goals. The last time out, they got shutout by Carolina on 1994 Night. So, I’m thankful for the two goals we at least got to celebrate in the first period.
Pavel Buchnevich continued to impress by making a perfect cross ice feed for a Brendan Lemieux goal on a odd man rush. Mika Zibanejad added his career high 40th assist. It was a well executed play by the top line.
Everyone knows the power play isn’t good. However, you wouldn’t have known that by the way they moved the puck around on Vinni Lettieri’s first of the season. The second unit got it done. Filip Chytil got the puck to Tony DeAngelo, who made a brilliant pass across for a Lettieri one-timer past Matt Murray, who couldn’t quite recover. The Pens starting goalie sure made up for it later.
But before they could announce Lettieri’s goal, Nick Bjugstad was able to get to a Marcus Pettersson rebound 26 seconds later to make it 2-1. DeAngelo nearly set up another goal. But a sharp Murray robbed Vladislav Namestnikov point blank by getting a piece of it with a glove. The puck stayed out despite being in mid-air. That was a turning point.
The second period was a different story altogether. Outclassed is how I’d summarize it. Anything that could go wrong did. A iffy hi-sticking minor on Brady Skjei resulted in a wonderful power play goal by the Pens. It was set up by who else but Sidney Crosby. After receiving the puck from Phil Kessel down low, the Pens captain went behind the net and made a great pass for a Justin Schultz one-time blast past Alexandar Georgiev over the glove.
Momentum swung completely in favor of the far more talented playoff contender who needed the game to tie the Islanders for second place in the division. It was totally understandable. Unacceptable too even if some of our fake fans are openly rooting for losses due to draft position. Do they even realize how long this rebuilding process could take? What fools.
The Pens outscored the Rangers 3-0 in the uncompetitive stanza. Georgiev had a rough night. Even though four of the five goals weren’t his fault, the Pens game-winner from ageless veteran Matt Cullen was one he would want back.
Following a brutal turnover by John Gilmour that allowed the Pens to forecheck, Cullen took a drop pass and came out and beat Georgiev from a bad angle short side. He wasn’t set and paid for it. Plenty of Pittsburgh fans in jerseys cheered as if it were a home game. It was kinda embarrassing.
The worst moment of the game came on the Rangers’ second consecutive power play, which Lemieux drew. The top unit got victimized twice for Penguin shorthanded bids. On the first, they couldn’t quite score. But the second was a series of dreadful plays by the top unit. They got completely outworked behind the net.
Eventually, Teddy Blueger came out with the puck and caught Georgiev off his near post for a easy backhand into the open side for a back breaking shorthanded goal that made it 4-2 to even more cheers. I don’t know who was behind the net, but Lemieux dove to take away a pass. Instead, he took himself right out of the play. It made it easier for Blueger, who may as well have been named Lex Luger on this night. He also got the lone Pens tally in the third on a rebound Georgiev couldn’t control.
Lemieux did get a chance on the same power play with a mini break. But Murray denied him to keep it 4-2.
The third was just wait and see if they could come back. They couldn’t. Murray made some key saves including a good one on Buchnevich. Eventually, Blueger sealed it by beating the invisible Ranger D to the front for his second.
That was our cue to exit. You learn a lot from these games. Brendan Smith was a standout on the fourth line. He created multiple chances and nearly pulled off a goal of the year candidate on a shorthanded bid. Since being shifted to forward, the veteran defenseman has acquitted himself well. He deserves to stay on the team. His hustle hasn’t gone unnoticed.
I also thought each young center competed well. Chytil recording an assist and working hard throughout. Lias Andersson noticeable on the forecheck and defensively responsible. Brett Howden putting himself in the right spot for a scoring chance off a Pens turnover forced by Ryan Strome. Lettieri turned in his best overall game as a Blueshirt.
In games like this, you have to pay close attention to the details. For all the criticism he gets, Marc Staal was missed. Fredrik Claesson was late on one of the goals. I’m not sure I’d bring him back.
I also liked how Brady Skjei and DeAngelo competed. Ditto for Kevin Shattenkirk. Gilmour had a rough game. Neal Pionk was okay.
The thing that bothered me was seeing some of the “fans” get up during play and leave. God forbid they wait for a stoppage. It’s just sad. Nobody cares. There’s no respect for anyone. Especially when you sit upstairs like we have for so long. These same people arrive late and just go to their seats before a whistle.
I know this will sound negative. But I’m not here to play games. I don’t want to go through another bad stretch like we did in the Dark Ages. If you aren’t old enough to know, you’re lucky. The period between 1997 thru 2004 was unbearable. It was embarrassing. It’s becoming like that again already and it’s only Year Two. I hope I’m wrong about next year.