Habitual Linesteppers. Pens Win.

In what proved to be the bounce back game to end all bounce back games, the Pens came back after laying an egg against the Panthers and losing 5-1 to fire 5 past the Canadiens and take this one 5-1.  It was an inspired, focused, and strong performance from a Penguins team that needed a game like this against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference to really flex their superiority cocks by dominating all phases of the game, including the special teams battle.  Plus, they found ways to just completely victimize the Montreal defense time after time, most notably Andrei Markov, who was torched so much that his jock was found in the bathroom behind Section 219 by our good buddy Dazen.

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Not many teams in the league will be able to keep up with this Pens team if they can consistently play like this.  Obviously, there is still work to be done, but after playing relatively poorly for the last couple weeks or so, this was a step in the right direction, especially in response to Monday’s game.

The Habs got this Penguins team at the wrong time. And the Penguins ended up needing to whip their ass.

Full recap and whatever follows after the jump.

Lineup: Pens would see Deryk Engelland return to the lineup, yet again as a 4th line forward, replacing Zach Sill, because why not?  That meant Kobasew remained on the top line with Crosby and Kunitz while Megna and his unlimited speed and skill stayed on the 4th line, again, because why not?  Brotuzzo was your other scratch, as you’d expect with the Pens having their top 6 healthy again.  Big time Canadian goaltending matchup with Fleury and Price.

First Period

The Malkin Line got the start for the Pens with Orpik and Martin on the back end, while Michel Therrien sent out Plekanec-Gionta-Eller with Subban and Markov on the blueline.  Montreal had the first real chance of the tilt on a deflection in front.  Little bit of back and forth disjointed nonsense led to a failed clearance that Megna jumped to hold in at the Montreal blueline.  He tried feeding Engo streaking towards the net, but it got broken up until Megna jumped on the loose puck in the corner and dished to Adams in the slot that wouldn’t go for him.

Just 4:44 into the game, Kobasew went to the box for high-sticking Subban to give the 9th ranked powerplay in the league their first chance of the game.  Halfway through the penalty and with Sill being out of the lineup, the Pens needed another guy to kill penalties.  That guy was Sidney Crosby (and there was much rejoicing).

A couple minutes after the kill, a shifty little pass along the wall from Niskanen somehow led to Malkin getting free along the boards and getting a 2 on 1 with Jokinen on Subban.  Markov pinched for whatever reason and it let Geno dance him.  Subban YOLO’d and stepped to Malkin, who was on his backhand and didn’t really have a decent chance at shooting, but Subban’s bad play let Geno dish to Juicy for one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score.  1-0

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Therrien seemed okay with letting Subban and Markov get worked by Malkin.  That was Niskanen’s 14th point in his last 15 games, too.

Subban then had a meltdown on his next shift after Jokinen almost scored on the doorstep and Malkin pick-pocketed some Canadien and worked the puck down low.  Unreal composure by Subban, taking a slashing penalty in the process, only after giving Malkin 3 whacks and tackling Jokinen.  Nick Lidstrom was probably sitting in Subban’s condo twirling a shotgun and sipping bourbon, waiting for Subban to come home so they can “have a talk.”  Anyway, the Pens top-ranked powerplay didn’t do much of anything against the Habs 4th ranked penalty kill, making them 0 for 10 in their last 10 man-advantages.

Pens went back to the powerplay with about 5:15 left as Beaulieu was sent to the box for throwing the puck over the glass.  The powerplay was a little bit better this time around, only because they were able to do a little more with the broken plays as a result of the Canadiens high pressure penalty killing.  The second unit though got it done.  Jokinen found Martin at the point, who put it on a tee for Niskanen to activate the “laser” and launch at Pyatt’s stick.  2-0

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Fifteen points in 15 games for Niskanen.  Really surprised that shot actually found it’s way into the goal without getting lost…………..in Pyatt’s eyes.

Right after that though, Niskanen missed the puck in front of Fleury on a pass from behind the net by Briere to Bourque.  Bourque shot was in and out so quickly that the ref didn’t realize it and play continued.  At the next whistle, they reviewed and gave them the goal.  2-1

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Crosby kind of got a little lost and it gave Briere all the time in the world behind the net by himself.  That’s all it took.

With 32.3 seconds remaining, the Pens had to go back to the penalty kill after Orpik took an interference call on former Penguin Crankshaft Murray at the blueline.  No clue what Douglas Murray was doing by actually skating and trying to get into the offensive zone, but everyone likes to try to play hockey at least once in their life.

Crosby was back out there for the kill early on and was trying to block Subban blasts before the period ended.  Not an overly unbalanced period, as illustrated by the stats.  The Montreal goal really turned the period around for them.  Shots were 9-8 Pens, while faceoffs were 10-9 Habs.  Pens had 7 of the 12 hits and Montreal had 7 of the 11 blocked shots.

Second Period

Montreal kicked the period off with 1:27 of powerplay time to work with.  Aside from a Subban bomb from the point, the Pens were able to kill it off without much trouble.  Kunitz-Crosby-Pyatt went to work after the kill and yet another broken play led to another great scoring chance, this time with a lucky bounce causing the puck to come to Crosby all alone in front of Price, but the rolling puck was rifled high and wide.  Pens gave the puck away in the neutral zone, as of course is tradition, and it allowed Gallagher to dance around Scuderi and fire a shot off the post from the right wing.

With 14:14 remaining, the Pens were zipping the puck around the offensive zone.  Neal circled up high and dished to Maatta, who took the pass off the wall and fired a looooooong cross-ice pass to Juicy J.  Jokinen’s one-timer went off Markov’s knee, but we’ll be homers for a hot minute and say it was going to go in anyway because he do the Bombay gin dance.  3-1

Jokinen Goal

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That play by Maatta dear lord.  It’s like he’s not 19 except he is and has been looking like he’s played his way out of that little rough patch he was in.

With 9:09 left, the Habs were threatening with a Subban shot that was almost tipped in by Gionta.  The Pens broke the trap for once by Murphy Dumping the puck out of the zone rather than trying a stretch pass.  The dump connected with Kunitz, who was subsequently tackled by Subban, who actually received a holding penalty this time, but not after Kunitz made a play to get the puck down low to Sid.  This time, the top PP unit broke down the Montreal PK.  The Habs got the puck clear twice, but the when the Pens came back in and got set it, it was lights out.  Malkin was working the right half wall.  He delayed a bit, opened up the Montreal box (phrasing), and found Kunitz through the seam.  He went down low to Sid, then back to Kunitz, and to Letang.  Letang lined up like he was going to unload a clapbomb, but instead took everything off of it and hit Crosby with a slap-pass, which Crosby just deflected in all business.  4-1

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Too nasty.  Too too too nasty.  Just not fair when these guys do shit like that.

Then with 7:24 remaining, Bouillon hauled down Neal behind the play to send the Pens back on the powerplay.  Midway through the powerplay, Crosby used some sorcery to take a pass that was behind him by jumping with one foot and taking the pass off his trailing skate, all while maintaining speed and splitting the 3 Canadiens that were back.  It would’ve brought the house down, but Price made a big time glove save to deny Team Canada’s captain.

Instead, about a minute after the kill, Malkin brought the house down.  He came through the neutral zone with great speed, victimized Markov again, drove the net, while almost taking the puck off his skate, kicking it off Price’s sprawling pad so it would come back to his stick, and burying it.  5-1

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i literally cannot even gif

And that goal was the end of Carey Price’s night.  Yep.  Yepyepyep.  No way of convincing us that Malkin didn’t drop that to his skate a la Pavel Bure.

Crosby almost welcomed Budaj to the game by scoring on another deflection as he drove the net, but his redirect went under the arm of Budaj and over the crossbar, allegedly denying basic properties of physics.

Neal took a puck to the face late in the period and Kobasew was also seen going down the runway, thus furthering our theory that he came back from his initial injury too early.  Just a guess based on no real evidence other than he hasn’t been the same Chuck Kobasew we saw during preseason and the first couple weeks of the regular season.  Pens doubled up the Habs in shots 14-7 in the 2nd period while going 2 for 5 on the powerplay on the game.  Probably the most focused first 40 minutes this team had played all season.

Third Period

The third period started off a little slow, then opened up a little bit after Crosby and Gallagher got into it with each other.  Both teams  were exchanging chances while both goaltenders did well to thwart those chances.  Fleury had to make some of the better saves, especially on Gallagher after the Habs hemmed the Pens in their own zone, which eventually led to Niskanen taking a slashing penalty about 5 and a half minutes in.

Pens PK did its normal job, all started with Adams almost taking Subban’s head off.  They were getting in all the shooting lanes and keeping the Habs to the outside, prohibiting them from making east-west passes.  After a clear, a long stretch pass sprung Pacioretty for a rare powerplay breakaway, but MAF made the big glove save right before the penalty expired.  That didn’t stop the Canadiens from keeping the puck in the Pens zone, but Letang eventually made a play on the puck to get it clear.

The back and forth action continued with both teams trading opportunities, with Crosby getting one of the better ones during that mid-period stretch.  After picking the puck up in the neutral zone, he cut inside from the right wing and wired a wicked wrister that was labeled for the twine, but it rang off the crossbar instead of blowing the net off.

A little later, the Habs Midget Line almost found a way to put a 2nd in behind Fleury.  A little bit of a broken play ended up with the puck getting to the front of the net.  Fleury fought off the shot, fell to the ice, and the Pens D threw themselves in front of the puck to keep it out in what should have been a sure goal, finally allowing MAF to cover and get the whistle.  Orpik put a big hit on Gallagher earlier in the shift, so Therrien put his pieces of shit out on the ice on the next shift.  Rene Bourque, who has a history of doing cheap shit, launched Orpik into Fleury, then Orpik got sucker-punched as the scrum ensued by Prust.  As everything was happening, Budaj and Fleury tried to drop the mitts with each other, but the linesmen intervened to keep them from squaring off.  Which, by the way, technically had to happen as soon as the two removed their helmets (or, in this case, masks). Should have been an extra 2 a piece in addition to “leaving the crease,” but who’s counting?

Fleury was all smiles afterwards because he’s been wanting to get in a fight or whatever.  Really surprising that it took till the last 5 minutes for this game to get out of hand.  Pens ended up getting a powerplay after all was said and done as Orpik and Prust each got 2 for roughing and 10 minute misconducts, while Orpik got a game misconduct, Fleury and Budaj each got 2 for leaving the crease and Bourque picked up an extra penalty for interference.  Bylsma sent out 3/5 of his top unit with Malkin and Letang on the points with Crosby on the half wall, Jokinen roving, and Engelland in front of the net.  Montreal basically needed the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to move Engo from the crease, but the Pens weren’t able to score.

The game settled down a bit after the kill.  Good on the refs to take control of the game after the debauchery.  The Penguins continued to play the game correctly instead of just checking out with a big lead the last 3 minutes before the final horn.

Highlights

Notes

1) Crosby and Malkin were everywhere. Doing all the things. Just an all-world performance from each of them against their former coach. Rene Bourque may have put it best in this quote, via Sean Gentille on Twitter: “It looked like Malkin was playing a video game.”

2) Fleury was lights out. Made some big saves early in the game to keep it close, then closed down shop on anything the Habs tried to get going when it was still a game. He didn’t get to drop the gloves. We love goalie fights as much as anyone with a pulse, but let’s just say it’s probably for the best he stays healthy.

3) Every Penguins defenseman recorded at least one point last night. And goddamn, Matt Niskanen is on fire. 15 points in 15 games is completely unheard of, especially for a guy that was a tack-on in the Goligoski for Neal trade. Joe Nieuwendyk was so high.

4) Subban/Markov bad.  Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad. Subban took two complete bonehead penalties, one of which led to a Penguins’ power play goal. He was also out for 3 more goals against at even strength. We say it that way because +/- is pretty stupid. But he was a -3. Malkin Line abused those guys worse than Buffalo Bill.

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Pens are back in action tonight as they travel to Long Island to take on the red hot John Tavares and the rest of the New York Islanders.

Go Pens.

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