The Pittsburgh Penguins finally had a healthy team…for one game.
Then, they started to drop like flies again. The Pens haven’t had a fully healed team since before the season started, and it looked like similar circumstances.
One game the lineup was 100 percent healthy for once. Then Patric Hornqvist was injured the very next game.
So it’s clear this injury bug is going to be a problem all season. But given the statistics of previous games missing key players, this could be an interesting year for the young starters of this Pittsburgh team.
The Pens ended October scaring the goalie right out of the net after they scored four goals in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers. It helped give the Pens a little confidence booster when they knew what game was coming next.
Their Canadian opponent, the Edmonton Oilers, have a pair of players near the top of the NHL’s scoresheet – Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Pittsburgh took its first OT loss against the Edmonton Oilers. Colby Cave of the Oilers was the first to score on a quick deke to Matt Murray’s right side, who thought Cave would go top corner, glove hand, a little before the halfway point in period one. After a scoreless second, Brian Dumolin received a pass from Bryan Rust at center ice for him to score a shorthanded goal, making it 1–1.
But this game needed more than 60 minutes, and OT is where the winner would be decided after a fast-paced back and forth between the two teams.
Draisaitl got a lose puck into the neutral zone, charged into past the Pens’ blue line and took a quick shot past Murray’s blocker to take home the two points for Edmonton. Tough loss, but the Pens got one point for pushing overtime. Next up was the Boston Bruins, who were on a five-game winning streak.
The Bruins scored three unanswered goals against the Penguins and Murray. DeBrusk was the first to score, then Brad Marchand smacked a bouncing puck in front of Murray’s net in the first to make the score 2–0. Five minutes into the second, David Pastrnak scored a ripper over the right blocker.
Though not long after that, the Pens scored their first. After Justin Schultz’s puck went wide, Jared McCann got the pass across the blue paint in front of to Dominick Kahun. He managed to bury it and score his third goal of the season. The momentum was going in Pittsburgh’s favor.
Minutes later, Nick Bjugstad had a breakaway and scored gloveside on Jaroslav Halak. Late in the second, Bryan Rust got a spin-o-rama pass from Evgeni Malkin to make it a tie game at three.
Then, with three seconds left, John Marino scored his first goal in his home town. Marino rushed out of the penalty box to give the Pens the lead. Then, after a fumbled puck and a sloppiness with getting the puck out of the zone, Boston tied the game. They went on to score one more past Tristan Jarry and an empty netter. The Bruins took home their sixth straight win.
The Penguins then took on the New York Islanders at Barclays Center. The last time these two faced off, the Islanders won four straight and then lost four straight against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Pittsburgh was looking for revenge after the early playoff exit. Murray did a double-take to the left side of the net, but Casey Cizikas took the opportunity to wrap around the opposite side of the net before Murray could react.
That was just 20 seconds in.
The Isles went on to score two more in the second period. But the Pens’ scoring began to ramp up in the third.
A minute and a half in, McCann sunk a rocket past Seymon Varlamov to put the Pens on the board. In a desperate move, Murray lifted his leg to get the left pad save to prevent NY taking a 4–1 lead. This led to a breakout pass to Rust and eventual second goal to Pittsburgh.
With a little more than 11 minutes left in the third, Juuso Riikola shot one on net, but it was deflected in front of the net, where Malkin made it a tie game.
They forced the game into overtime. After some mishandling of the puck by the Islanders, Malkin, being the big Russian center that he is, forced a turnover in the opposition’s zone, causing Rust to gain the puck behind the net, then score a wraparound goal for the OT winner.
The Pens secured their revenge against the team that embarrassed them last season, but then they faced off against the Chicago Blackhawks, who haven’t lost a game to Pittsburgh since 2014.
After a scoreless first, the Blackhawks played a little tic-tac-toe with some quick passes to lift the puck into the net. Patrick Kane the scored the second of the game going short side, past Murray’s glove hand, 2–0 Blackhawks.
With four minutes left in the second, Malkin rushed into the Blackhawks’ zone with Jake Guentzel and managed to tally one past Corey Crawford. The pressure had been on the Blackhawks with extended zone time for the Penguins. Marino noticed Rust on the right side, and an open net, passed it to Rust and scored. Tie game 2–2.
Again, the Pens managed to tie the game to push another OT.
Guentzel began and scored, going five-hole on Crawford. Jonathan Toews and Malkin both tred for five-hole and came up empty. Kane was second for Chicago and scored by going five hole.
McCann went blocker pad side and scored, giving himself a record of 3–5 on shootouts and the victory, ending the drought against Chicago for the Penguins.
The Pens are pulling out victories in spectacular fashion but have recently been hit with injured players once again.
Hornqvist was injured late in the Oilers game. He’s been diagnosed with a lower body injury and has been put on the injured reserve list. Sidney Crosby left the Blackhawks game early and did not return; his status is day-to-day. The same goes for Kris Letang, who was injured in the Bruins game.