In a game which was rarely played 5v5, it was only fitting the game was decided with 3-on-3 overtime. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz blocked a shot in the defensive zone, then turned that loose puck into a game-winning breakaway goal. The Penguins and their power play beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-5, in the Penguins preseason home opener.
The NHL crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations was in full effect. The teams combined for seven minor penalties in the first period, including five by the Red Wings. In total, the Wings were called for 10 minors, and the Penguins were called for six. The Penguins were 2 of 10 in just over 15 minutes of power play time. The Red Wings were 3 of 6 in just six minutes of power play work.
The frequent whistles largely killed any momentum or game continuity.
Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary, paired on the top line with undrafted free agent Adam Johnson, put on a show. Guentzel played a role in the first five Penguins goals, with a goal and four assists. Sheary added a goal and two assists.
Johnson, 22, also had a pair of goals. He earned a two-year entry-level deal in July and drew the plum assignment of centering the Penguins top line, last night. The 6′-0″, 175lbs center spent three years in the USHL before playing two years of college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth.
His goals, a tap-in and a wrist shot from the slot, were the products of lively play from Sheary and Guentzel. The wingers played fast and creative with the puck, in an otherwise jumbled hocked game.
Third line center candidate Greg McKegg also scored. He converted a sharp pass across the crease from Scott Wilson.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray stopped 19 of 22 shots, in two periods. Tristan Jarry played the third period and stopped 13 of 15.
Gustav Nyquist had a pair of goals and two assists for Detroit. Darren Helm, Matt Lorito, and Ben Street had the other tallies. Former Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley also played but was scoreless with a -2 in nearly 20 minutes of ice time. Daley wore number 83.
–McKegg is fast, but his speed was rarely seen Wednesday night. It’s difficult to say if it was the jumbled nature of the game, or if he doesn’t play fast. In the team scrimmages, McKegg would also disappear into the crowd trying to get to the net. The same happened, Wednesday. He did not have a clean, up-tempo game. He also lost five of nine faceoffs.
The upside–McKegg played over two minutes on the penalty kill unit and was one of the few Penguins killers to not yield a power-play goal.
–Teddy Blueger. He played just 11:09, Wednesday night. And that is unfortunate. Blueger brings an energy to the ice. He is immediately noticeable on most shifts. Blueger’s speed and tenacity were a welcome sight in an otherwise dull game.
He made a few mistakes, including leaving his feet in the crease to block a pass. The pass deflected off his skates into the net. He also looked scrambly (sure, that’s a word?) at times. However, Blueger was paired with a pair of minor leaguers, Garret Wilson and J.S. Dea, so the entire unit looked out-position at times.
Blueger appears OUT of the running for an NHL roster spot, right now. That is unfortunate. He appears to be a player who plays every shift at full speed and full intensity. A spark plug. Those types of guys are needed. The Penguins could use the remainder of pre-season to hone Blueger’s game, but it appears, based on ice time and linemates, Blueger is ticketed for WBS to season his game.
–Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan deployed Ryan Reaves on the PK unit, for 2:30. Reaves did yield a man advantage marker when his stick broke, which left Joe Hicketts open to make a cross-ice pass to Nyquist for a one-timer. Reaves otherwise played like a veteran player in preseason. He picked his moments to play 100%.
His speed and stature are impressive. When the games are real, Penguins fans will be pleased with the results.
–I spent the game in the upper bowl. And I must ask regular ticket holders… How do you tolerate other people?? The two girls across the aisle did not stop talking. I mean—did.not.stop.talking.for.three.hours. They talked over the goal horn, they talked louder when the crowd cheered. They talked louder when the organ tried to organize chants. I’m quite sure they didn’t see a moment of the game. I was praying for them to start texting.
The fellows behind me were taking turns imitating them. The guys in the two seats beside those girls were the “Shoot the puck!” guys and dressed for a Whitesnake concert at Star Lake in 1986 (OK, that was amusing. It was like an exhibit at the museum). And, the woman two rows back made a habit of desperately screaming “Do it, Do it, Do it,” every time the Penguins entered the offensive zone.
Good gosh almighty, even I was ready to leave early. Or worse, attend the Pirates game.
–On the plus side, since I wasn’t officially working, I was able to enjoy a beer before the game. That was nice.