Thoughts: Game 55 – Pens ride a roller coaster to 5-4 (SO) win over Ottawa

By: Meesh Shanmugam

Here’s a link to the Postgame Thoughts archive, in case you want to catch up on what you may have missed.

Pens 5  Senators 4 (SO)

Record: 32-15-8

Goals
Letang (10) from Bennett, Sutter
Crosby (18) from Scuderi
Malkin (21) from Comeau, Letang
Crosby (19) from Kunitz

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 55 - Goals

Penalties
Crosby (cross-checking) – Stupid (cross-checks Gryba in the back in front of the ref after the puck moves away from the area in front of the Senators net)
Adams (tripping) – Unnecessary (tries to slash down the stick of Neil and gets his stick into Neil’s right skate to trip him)
Letang (hooking) – Overly aggressive (loses the puck to Stone and then wraps his stick around Stone and in between his legs to hook him back)
Kunitz (10 min misconduct) – Inconsequential (gets hit late by Neil and they get into a scrum that sends them both off with 10 minute misconducts)

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 55 - Forwards

Sidney Crosby – The first line has been dominant for weeks now and Crosby is finally starting to reap the rewards that he was unable to find before. He had a two-goal night with a slapshot from the left faceoff circle and a tap-in through Lehner’s legs after an uncovered save. Both goals were typical Crosby in their own way – a perfectly placed shot streaking down the wing and a tap-in at the crease just for going to the net. He finished with a team-leading five shots on net as the first line spent several extended shifts in the offensive zone. He was also very smart with the puck, only losing it once on the night. Imagine the damage he could do if he starts heating up going into the stretch run.

Beau Bennett – Bennett stayed in the lineup after a decent game against Detroit and he improved on that performance against Ottawa. He had three pass interceptions, three shots on net, and a blocked shot as he looked solid in all three zones. He contributed to the first goal of the game when he fed the puck to Letang off of the faceoff and then smartly tied up Cowen to give Letang a little extra time and space coming around from behind the net. The only mark I had against him was one giveaway, which meant absolutely nothing compared to his positive contributions. Shockingly, it turns out that Bennett is worthy of a lineup spot.

Regardless of battle level, Bennett still contributes more than the other options. (Adrian Wyld/AP Photo)

Regardless of battle level, Bennett still contributes more than the other options. (Adrian Wyld/AP Photo)

4th line – Aside from maybe two shifts, the 4th line was a complete disaster against the Senators. They got pinned in the defensive zone on several shifts and fell into the trap of icing the puck and staying in the defensive end on a few occasions as well. Sill was partially at fault for a goal, Adams took an unnecessary penalty, and Lapierre was lucky enough to be stuck in between them. I have to give credit to Sill and Adams for some broken-up plays in the defensive zone, but they largely occurred because the line couldn’t get out of the defensive zone to begin with. The new slogan with this line might just be “get it to the neutral zone” if they play like that again.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 55 - Defense

Thomas Greiss – Though everyone was up in arms about Greiss by the end of the game, he really wasn’t as bad as it appeared in real-time. With the chances the Penguins allowed throughout the game, it’s actually surprising that they even had a 3-0 lead to begin with. In the second period, Greiss stopped Ryan on a penalty shot, Karlsson on a semi-breakaway, and Karlsson again on a hard shot that almost rolled over him. The third period was a disaster by the end, but it started with Greiss stopping Michalek in the slot, Ryan on a one-timer, and Karlsson again on the PK. He later made a stop on Chiasson alone in front on a 2-on-1 situation. Despite all of these strong saves, everyone will look at the goals allowed. Going through them: first goal – Zibanejad made a beautiful move on the crease by himself, second goal – Hoffman ripped a quick wrist shot that was perfectly placed, third goal – Stone slid the puck on a one-timer through a screen, and the fourth goal – Turris had a semi-breakaway and snuck the puck through the five-hole. Of the four goals, the only one that bothered me was that 4th one because Turris ran out of room, had no other shooting options, and Greiss probably should have read and reacted to that better. Of course, Greiss then went on to stop all three shots in the shootout (while social media called for Fleury) to get the win. Was he great? No. Was he as bad as everyone claimed at the time? No. Greiss is a backup goalie doing backup goalie things (with not much help from his team backing off either).

Greiss had to deal with way too many 1-on-1 opportunities (Adrian Wyld/AP Photo)

Greiss had to deal with way too many 1-on-1 opportunities (Adrian Wyld/AP Photo)

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo continued in his underwhelming ways with a lost puck in the defensive zone and two lost coverages, including on the powerplay goal that put the Senators on the scoreboard. On that play, he cheated towards the middle where Sutter was covering MacArthur, which left a wide open lane between Ryan and Zibanejad and also left Zibanejad uncovered next to Greiss on the crease. Ever since that Tootoo/Jagr incident against the Devils long ago, Bortuzzo just doesn’t appear to be as aggressive in any facet of his game. With all of the talk about the Penguins looking into acquiring another defenseman, Bortuzzo would lead my list of candidates for heading to the press box.

Rob Scuderi – Scuderi had a rough game, and especially third period, against the Senators. Things started nicely for him as he assisted on Crosby’s first goal and also had a couple of broken-up plays in the defensive zone. Everything went south quickly in the third period though and he finished with a giveaway, a lost puck, a failed clear, a lost coverage, and two goals against on his watch. He was partially at fault for the 2nd goal against when he backed up towards the crease to cover a man that was already covered by Despres, which led to poor gap coverage on Hoffman and a wrist shot into the net. He was then partially at fault for the third goal against when he lost track of the puck around his skates and then got knocked over by Stone, which allowed Stone to score the goal. Some may argue that was interference, but Scuderi had his head down and was directly in between Stone and the puck, so I’m not sure what else Stone is supposed to do there. Either way, Scuderi certainly played a bad part in the Senators comeback. At least he has a two-game point streak?

Misc. Thoughts

Scratching Downie – Just to cover everything on this one, Johnston said after the Red Wings game that he wouldn’t sit Downie because of his hooking penalty since he thought it was a bad call. TV coverage said he was a healthy scratch. Radio coverage said he had been banged up a little. He skated the morning of the game, which is odd for a guy who would be sitting due to an injury of any sort. So, it seems that no one really knows why Downie was scratched. If he’s healthy, he should be in the lineup. He upgrades that 4th line significantly, no matter which piece of it you take off the ice. If he’s hurt, I’m confused as to why he skated in the morning, but hopefully he returns soon. Downie may take a lot of bad penalties, but his skill generally trumps that issue in comparison to the current 4th line, especially after a game like this one.

Concerns about the Collapse – For the second game in a row, the Penguins took their collective foot off of the gas pedal and faced an enormous amount of pressure.  This time, it was when they were tired and against a fresh team to increase the effects exponentially.  There should definitely be some concern about how the Penguins are approaching 3rd periods, but the bigger concern might be when and how the 4th line is being used.  They are being used in key defensive situations at times (last minute of the game?!), which I am not thrilled with since Crosby, Malkin, etc are certainly talented enough to handle the defensive end of the ice in key situations. At this point, I am just hoping that Rutherford can make his depth upgrades so that Johnston can have a 4th line that has actually earned his reliance on it.

It shouldn't have come to this, but Perron still got the team two points. (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

It shouldn’t have come to this, but Perron still got the team two points. (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Next Game: 2/15 @ Chicago, 12:30pm

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