The Pittsburgh Penguins were generally lackluster on Monday night but escaped with an overtime win over the Western Conference middling Calgary Flames. Wednesday night in front of a hungry holiday crowd, the Penguins burst from the starting gate with a pair of first period goals before unbuttoning their pants and giving up the next four goals. The Penguins rallied from a three-goal third period deficit and scored six final-frame goals for a thrilling 8-6 win at PPG Paints Arena.
For a good while, it looked like the turkey would be the Penguins as they waddled through the second period. Elias Pettersson and Jake Virtanen stuffed in second-period goals, and Adam Gaudette appeared to firmly mash the Penguins with a goal in the final minute of the second.
But in the end, Evgeni Malkin scored an empty netter with .02 seconds remaining as gravy for a furious comeback. The comeback had several vital components, as did the Penguins fast start and their second-period turkey-coma.
“As I said to our players after the game, I love our resilience. It’s just a never say die attitude,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Penguins comeback was born of several aspects. First, their intensity reached a fevered pitch, but they controlled the surge of emotion. When a team is forced to mount a wild comeback, it usually saps the energy when they get close or tie the game. When the charging team takes a breath, the momentum ends. However, the Penguins didn’t breathe until the final horn. The moment which sparked the comeback a rebound goal was a four-on-four after dual holding penalties to Bryan Rust and Elias Pettersson.
“It was Dom Kahun’s goal on that four-on-four. Getting that goal, then having a chance on the power play. We capitalized. Geno (Malkin) pulled up and scored with that slapshot,” Zach Aston-Reese told PHN. “But it all started with Dom’s goal. Getting that fourth goal was huge, and there was kind of no stopping that train.”