Breakdown: Game 19 – Penguins 4, Avalanche 3


By: @chetstead

At home against the Colorado Avalanche, the Pens’ offense made some more progress.

The captain finally got a goal, hopefully breaking the ice on his season-long slump.

Colorado’s top lines are stocked with talent, including 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and 2009 third overall pick Matt Duchene.

The Avalanche also have some depth issues. The Avs are well below .500 so far this season. This is a team the Penguins should beat, so it’s encouraging to see tonight’s result.

Plotnikov found his way back into the lineup with Sprong the healthy scratch.


First period

Crosby nearly scored 30 seconds into the game as a Hornqvist pass found him in front of the net. The puck jumped over the net on Crosby’s shot.

Kunitz almost snuck one inside the near-side post with a tricky shot as Reto Berra started to cheat toward the center of the net. Cullen followed that up with a shot from the top of the crease.

Crosby made a good defensive play to prevent Gabriel Landeskog, fresh off a suspension, from getting a shot off.

Malkin, looking strong like he did against the Wild, found Letang for a one-timer.

Perron’s playing with a lot of energy, going to the net and getting his nose dirty. Hopefully his goal against the Wild was a sign of good things to come.

The third line came close to forcing a puck past Berra’s left foot, with Kunitz, Bonino and Bennett all taking hacks at it.

Malkin, Crosby and Hornqvist all got involved in a scrum by the Colorado bench. Crosby got it started by attacking Cody McLeod after getting elbowed. The resulting penalties saw Hornqvist and McLeod going to the box.

Tyson Barrie beat Fleury and hit the post. The puck bounced around the Penguins’ crease for an agonizing second but Malkin was able to fish it out and keep Duchene from finishing it.

Bennett caught Landeskog with a high stick to make it a four-on-three powerplay for the Avalanche. Lots of open ice for Colorado’s big guns, including Jarome Iginla. Hornqvist managed to get a shot off after his penalty ended.

Clendening looks a little wobbly right now. Earlier in the period he pinched and then frantically scrambled to get back in position, turning his back to the play in the process. Later on he completely dropped his stick and fumbled around trying to pick it up as the Avalanche crossed the Penguins’ blue line.

Cody McLeod absolutely destroyed Clendening in the corner. McLeod lined up Clendening’s number and slammed him facefirst into the dasher boards. Clendening got up and went to the bench in obvious pain. McLeod was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for boarding. Clendening, luckily, wouldn’t miss a shift.

Crosby, Malkin and Hornqvist all hacked at Berra’s left pad trying to bury a loose puck. The play was reviewed, but the puck clearly hadn’t crossed the line. That was the best chance the Pens could muster on their first PP of the game.

Dupuis got called for interference on a pretty weak call, giving the Avalanche another powerplay to end the period. After a long shot from Iginla, Matt Duchene collected the rebound and put it over Fleury’s right pad. The Avs took a 1-0 lead into the first break.


Second period

Colorado had a flurry of chances early as Fleury lost his stick. Heads-up plays by Hornqvist and Fleury made sure the Avs didn’t add to their lead.

Ben Lovejoy went off for high sticking but the Avs couldn’t do anything with the first minute of the powerplay. Then Cullen won a faceoff forward and drew a penalty as Beauchemin caught him with a high stick. Bennett won the faceoff back to Ian Cole. Perron got a piece of it and the puck bounced through Berra’s legs and into the net. Tie score.

As the Lovejoy penalty ended, the Pens went on the PP. Malkin rocketed a one-timer slapshot on a pass from Letang that beat Berra high glove side.

Moments later, Kunitz wrapped one around the back of the Colorado net with Berra out of position. The Pens suddenly found themselves with a two-goal lead.

Letang, after failing to keep the puck in the offensive zone, chased it behind his own net and, with Iginla breathing down his neck, nearly took it coast-to-coast.

The Pens were buzzing, racking up chances for Malkin, Kessel, Bennett and Kunitz. The second period of this game saw some of the best forechecking the Pens have accomplished all season.

With the second period ebbing away, Hornqvist gave up his body to block a shot, potentially losing a tooth in the process.


Third period

MacKinnon went off for hooking but the Pens PP couldn’t do much.

Holden took a dumb penalty, crosschecking Crosby long after Crosby had passed the puck. The Pens’ extra attacker jumped on and the Avs took quiet a while to gain possession of the puck. Nothing doing on the PP again.

Barrie got the Avs’ second goal on a long wrister with Iginla screening Fleury.

The fourth line threatened to score, Cullen finding Fehr in the middle. Fehr’s shot hit Berra in the mask, stunning him for a second.

After a couple big chances for Kessel, Crosby hopped on the ice. Dupuis passed to Crosby, who had Barrie beaten, and Crosby put it five hole on Berra. First even strength goal of the season for Crosby. Nice that Sid got one in this game, he had a few chances earlier in the game.

Some pretty good stuff from Plotnikov in this game, too. HCMJ had the fourth line of Cullen/Fehr/Plotnikov matched up against the Avs’ top line on several shifts. Always good when you can send the fourth line out against the other team’s stars.

Bonino nailed Soderberg in the face with a high stick but somehow avoided the double minor. On the ensuing penalty, the puck found Duchene alone in front of the net. Fleury ended the threat with a nice poke check.

Patrick Roy pulled Berra to make it a six-on-four powerplay, but the Avs couldn’t score. The Pens held the puck in the Avs’ zone with the net empty. Perron had a nice shot blocked by Beauchemin acting as de facto goalie. At the other end, Landeskog found Duchene in the crease. 4-3 with a little over a minute remaining.

Letang nearly had a long-distance empty net goal. Some tense moments with Berra still pulled, but the Pens held on to win it.