A look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, their 50th season, and some history of Pittsburgh hockey
Today is election day, an important day indeed. We have the savvy veteran leader vs. the newcomer. Some say the newcomer will be the next great leader. These two will go head to head and later tonight, we will know the outcome. Oh, no, I’m not talking about Donnie and Hillary…that’s too mundane. I’m talking about Sid the Kid and the New Kid…which is Sidney Crosby and the next one, Connor McDavid.
If you’re like me, you had the good fortune of watching McDavid play junior hockey for three years for the Erie Otters. The Otter’s 6000 seat Erie Insurance Arena was mostly sold out for those years. McDavid was the first overall pick in the entry draft two years ago by the Edmonton Oilers.
At one time, when the Oilers met the Penguins, it was Wayne Gretzky against Mario Lemeiux. In fact, the first meeting of the two stars was election day in 1984. Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term as President of the United States of America.
But that was then and this is now. It’s McDavid against Crosby. Let the voting begin.
At just two minutes in, Pens’ left wing Connor Sheary scored, racing down the left side after receiving a pass from right wing Bryan Rust, who got the turnover from former long-time Bruin, now Oiler, Milan Lucic. Sheary put a slapper on Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot, who was in front of the paint to cut down any angle, and yet Sheary found some. Sheary had just entered the line-up in the last game after a serious eye injury sustained several games ago. He scored his second of the season. Quickly, it was 1-0 Pens.
At 3:45 into the period, Edmonton committed another turnover that gave Evgeni Malkin a scoring chance from five feet away at the right post. Talbot made the save.
At 6:21 in, defenseman Kris Letang took a hooking call on Edmonton first line right wing Jordan Eberle. Pens’ winger Carl Hagelin had a weak short-handed chance but Talbot was there. Zone clearings by the Pens’ defense and stops by Matt Murry, who started his third game of the season, rendered the Oilers power play harmless.
At nine minutes in, Oiler defenseman Eric Gryba, was called for interference on Patric Hornqvist, The power play proved ineffective. Neither team registered a shot on their respective power plays.
With eight minutes left in the first period, winger Jordan Eberle had another opportunity, a golden chance with his backhand two feet in front of Murray, but Murray, who has given up one goal in two games, was there standing tall.
With 5:37 left, Connor McDavid, the Oiler first line center and rising star, came down the slot, from a Penguin turnover, and fed the puck to his right wing Jordan Eberle, who beat Murray on the glove side. It was 1-1.
The Oil would take the lead when Connor McDavid fed his left winger Patrick Maroon on a bang-bang play to beat Murray. At 2:42 left, it was 2-1 Oil.
Crosby came in on Talbot with one minute left and was pulled down by a hook on Edmonton’s Matthew Benning. On the power play, winger Benoit Pouliot came in short-handed but was stopped by Murray. The Pens would have one minute left on their power play starting the second period. It was 2-1 Edmonton after one period.
Near the end of that one minute power play, the Pens had a stellar chance with Kessel to Letand to Malkin that was stuffed by Oil goalie Talbot. Then immediately, it was Malkin to Crosby to Kessel at the doorstep, which was kicked out by Talbot.
After the man advantage ended for Pittsburgh, third line center Nick Bonino, hit the right post. A minute later, the Pens had an incredible four on one rush into the Oilers’ zone, after Edmontons’ Eberle was stopped on a wrap around at the Penguin net, which left Edmonton with too many men deep. Hagelin, Hornqvist, Crosby and Letang came rushing in on Cam Talbot who made the save with his pads.
This created a two on one rush the other way with Eberle and McDavid. Eberle scored on the backhand, his second of the game, making it 3-1 Edmonton. Defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin went to cover McDavid, which left Eberle on his own. Coach Mike Sullivan would say after the game that he would rather not have a four man rush but how do you keep a player from rushing the zone when the opportunity is there. The Pens like pressure from their defense.
This first line for Edmonton, with McDavid, Eberle and Maroon, had accounted for all three of their goals. They have speed, and a lot of it, just as the Pens do. Coach Mike Sullivan matched the Crosby line with the McDavid line all through the game, rather than check the McDavid line with a checking line, most likely because of the fast transition game for both of these teams, which is a dangerous thing.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby had an opportunity to score at the seven minute mark of period two, from an Ian Cole pass from the left side, but Crosby hit the post. Talbot also stopped Matt Cullen trying to stuff a wrap around from behind the Oilers’ net.
At this point, midway through the game, the newcomer is leading the savvy veteran.
Winger Carl Hagelin popped it into the Edmonton net at 7:52 left, from a play by defenseman Trevor Daley, who passed it through the legs of Patric Horqvist, right onto the blade of Hagelin. The exhausted Oilers were in great need of a line change and the pass from Daley deflected off of Hornqvist’s right skate on its way to Hagelin. It was 3-2 Edmonton.
One last chance to score before the end of the period came when Malkin, Letang and Phil Kessel rushed the net. Kessel was blocked at the left post by defenseman Adam Larsson.
At 3:40 into the third, a great chance for the Pens came when Scott Wilson shot it from his backhand on Talbot in the slot. Talbot made the save and other key saves all night.
Then at 5:33 in, the moment came. It started with Oilers’ Milan Lucic passing the puck from behind the Pens’ net to winger Tyler Pitlick, who was completely stuffed by goaltender Matt Murray with his pad and stick. This was the save that kept the Oil from taking a two-goal lead. Instead, Phil Kessel, Chris Kuntiz and Evgeni Malkin stormed back into the Edmonton zone. Kessel fed Malkin from the right side and Malkin, whose body was torquing to the left, shot the puck with one arm to the right and into the net, while crashing Talbot and knocking the net of its moorings. Malkin looked lethargic all night long but he woke up to drive the crowd into a frenzy at 3-3.
Malkin had a chance at 11:53 left, right in front of the net from a Kessel feed, but he missed the cage. Eventually the puck found its way back to Kessel, who shot it from one knee on Talbot but the netminder was there. Then Malkin came back again with a shot from the left boards, also stopped by Talbot, who was keeping Edmonton in this game.
Center Connor McDavid had a quality chance to put the Oilers in the lead at 8:35 left but Murray was solid with his glove.
With 5:32 left in the third, Oil winger Patrick Maroon took a high-sticking penalty on the Pens’ Brian Dumoulin. The Pens had their opportunity to take a comeback lead. On the Pittsburgh power play, they were busted for too many men on the ice. The power play was reduced to a four on four. Connor Sheary served the penalty.
When Maroon returned from the box, Edmonton went on their own power play. The Pens’ center, Matt Cullen, came back into the Oilers’ zone short-handed, zigged and zagged along the left boards, then zigging and zagging behind the net, all with puck possession, eating up Edmonton penalty time. The crowd was inspired.
With 1:45 left and overtime looming, Connor Sheary, coming in on a three on three with Crosby and Hornqvist, stood at the right post, got a feed from behind the net, poked it to the goal, and attempted to hit the rebound from Talbot, which was being cleared by Oiler left wing, Benoit Pouliot, who cleared it away with his backhand, and then hit it again off his blade with a forehand and into his own net past Talbot. A back-breaker for sure. 4-3 Pens.
Talbot went off at 1:11 for the extra skater. Edmonton called a time out at the :25 left mark. Pittsburgh iced the puck with :19 left. in an attempt at an empty net goal. Then Edmonton had one last gasp as winger Jordan Eberle, who already had two goals in the game, found himself on the doorstep of Matt Murray’s goal mouth, and out of nowhere came the stick of Carl Hagelin to poke it away…..and that was the end of that.
A great win for Connor Sheary, Matt Murray (3-0) and the Pittsburgh Penguins, 32 years after Lemeiux and Gretzky played to a 3-3 election day tie. As far as elections go, by the time you read this, that other election business will have been decided. Here’s hoping your choice has come out on top.
Lee Kann is a media producer in film/radio/concerts, and a writer. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org