Catch-up post

The overriding theme of the past few games has been "living and dying by overtime". The Penguins haven't been able to keep leads lately, and have been hanging on by their fingernails night after night.

Pens vs. Devils: 8 Mar 2007

Patrick Elias must have been scouting Marc-Andre Fleury in shoot-outs. Everybody else has been skating straight in and hoping that the deke or the quick release will beat him. Very few have succeeded. Elias had the last shot in the third round of a scoreless shoot-out. He swung wide right from the start, stayed out until he reached the face-off dot to Fleury's left, then skated laterally across the slot, waiting for Fleury to open his legs as he moved side-to-side. Elias beat Fleury five-hole to win the game.

Final Score: Devils 4, Penguins 3 (Devils win shoot-out 1-0)
Three Stars:

  1. Sergei Brylin (1G from flat on his stomach)
  2. Evgeni Malkin (1G, 1A)
  3. Patrick Elias (1A, GW SOG)

Pens vs. Rangers: 10 Mar 2007

Another one of those early-afternoon matinée games, so the first was mostly– Oh, my God! Oh, my God! THAT'S LARAQUE'S MUSIC! The fight everybody has been looking forward to since the trading deadline finally came to pass: Georges Laraque vs. Colton Orr. Orr got a couple of rights in early, and both players were down and back up multiple times. Laraque ended things with an overhand left and a roar from the Mellon Arena faithful.

The Rangers jumped out to an early lead by wrapping two goals around the first intermission. Early in the third, Evgeni Malkin scored on a power play to wake the Pens up. Three minutes later, Sidney Crosby scored a huge power play goal. A Malkin shot hopped up in the air, and Crosby caught it at the post to the right of Henrik Lundqvist, set it down on his stick, and poked it into the net over Lundqvist's outstretched leg. Not only did it tie the game at 2-2, it was Crosby's 100th point of the season, making him the youngest player in NHL history with two 100-point seasons.

Then, for everything Crosby and Malkin did to tie the game, they weren't even on the bench for the end of it. They had both gone to the runway for equipment work during the break before overtime, and didn't make it back before play resumed. The game ended with everybody from both sides over-shifting. Maximum Talbot made a tremendous effort to hold the puck in the Rangers' zone, and found Colby Armstrong open at the right half-boards. Colby took the pass and flung a wrist shot at the net. The puck hit Marek Malik's stick and deflected over Lundqvist's shoulder and into the net. Crosby and Malkin had to join the celebration from the hallway.

Final Score: Penguins 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

Three Stars:

  1. Evgeni Malkin (1G, 1A)
  2. Sidney Crosby (1G)
  3. Sergei Gonchar (2A)

Pens vs. Sabres: 13 Mar 2007

Party at Mario's house!

Who invited all these people from Buffalo? And why do their jerseys have hairpieces on the front?

I'm not sure I like the fact that we had to celebrate the signing of Plan B against a team that travels well. There was entirely too much "Let's Go Buff-a-lo!" last night. Ya know what? We were too damn happy to care!

The referees were intent on keeping their whistles in their pockets, which led to three periods of wild up-and-down action and a month's worth of highlight-reel saves. For all that, what little scoring there was in the first two periods came in bursts.

  • Late in the first, Jason Pominville mucks a rebound behind Fleury. 1-0 Sabres.
  • Less than a minute later, Ryan Malone tips a Gonchar slapper in the net. 1-1.
  • Late in the second, Maximum Talbot gets the Cheapest Goal In NHL History, by flinging a pass across the slot, only for the puck to hit Ryan Miller's leg and deflect into the net. 2-1 Pens.
  • Chris Drury finds Dmitri Kalinin with a pretty one-timer pass. 2-2.

It looked like Pittsburgh was going to finally bury a game early in the third. Crosby poked home a Mark Recchi rebound for a power play goal a little over one minute in to make it 3-2. Gonchar made it 4-2 with a booming slapshot with about ten minutes to go.

Have I mentioned that the Sabres have the best record in the Eastern Conference?

Just two minutes after Gonchar's goal, Daniel Briere and Jochen Hecht got a 2-on-1 break. Hecht made a beautiful saucer pass to Briere, who buried it. 4-3.

With Miller pulled, Recchi almost had an empty-net goal, but his shot was Wide Right. (Wide Right is a registered trademark of Long Suffering Buffalo Fans, Inc.) With the Pens' defense hanging on for dear life, Drury fought for a rebound and scored with seven seconds remaining to tie it at 4-4.

Overtime was a lot of up-and-down, with nothing to show for it. Shoot-out time. Again.

  • The Specialist Erik Christensen dekes Miller to the ice, then uses the Forsberg Reach-Around to score. 1-0 Pens.
  • Daniel Briere doesn't take Patrick Elias' advice, and tries the deke-o-rama. It dribbles wide. 1-0 Pens.
  • Jarkko Ruutu finally gets his chance, and can't beat Miller with the forehand-backhand move. Ruutu can't beat Miller with the rebound either. Um, Jarkko? You're not allowed to try the rebound. But that's not Ruutu's job. His job is to get in people's kitchen. A linesman kept Ruutu from learning just how in Miller's kitchen he was.
  • Drew Stafford didn't take Elias' advice, either, but damn, was that a wicked release! 1-1, and we need a brief time-out while somebody finds a fire extinguisher for Fleury.
  • Sidney Crosby rubs his hands like a mad scientist. "Perfect. Ruutu has Miller so aggravated, he'll never expect the Forsberg Reach-Around twice in the same shoot-out!" Just to rub it in, Crosby went to the opposite side that Christensen did. 2-1 Pens.
  • Thomas Vanek might have considered Elias' advice, but after watching Stafford, figured he'd try that instead. Fleury teaches Vanek the error of his ways.

Final Score: Penguins 5, Sabres 4 (Pens win shoot-out 2-1), number of Zamboni breakdowns: 2. One died in the first intermission and wasn't ready for the second. Of course, the other one died in the second, so we had an extra-long break because they barely got the ice done after getting one Zamboni back on its wheels.

Three Stars:

  1. Sidney Crosby (1G, 2A, GW SOG)
  2. Ryan Whitney (3A)
  3. Daniel Briere (1G, 2A)

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