The Pittsburgh Penguins will conduct a practice Friday, and Mike Sullivan and his staff are sure to spend part of it addressing mistakes their players made Thursday evening.
For a while, though, it seemed like someone from the video staff might have had to stay up all night, ,doing a frame-by-frame breakdown of the game tape, just to find some.
While the Penguins certainly weren’t perfect during their 6-2 victory against Arizona in the season-opener at PPG Paints Arena, they weren’t far from it while there was any real suspense about the outcome.
Fact is, the Penguins squeezed all of that out of this one long before the middle of the first period.
Sidney Crosby, Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel put pucks behind Arizona goalie Karel Vejmelka during the first 5:10 of play, effectively reducing the remaining 54-plus minutes to a formality.
P.O Joseph, as expected, worked alongside Jan Rutta on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ No. 3 defense pairing, which meant Chad Ruhwedel was a healthy scratch.
Their only other scratch was fourth-line center Teddy Blueger, who has been nursing an unspecified upper-body injury since late last month. Ryan Poehling took his place between Brock McGinn and Josh Archibald.
The Coyotes were without defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who has been the subject of rampant trade speculation, while left winger Clayton Keller made his first appearance in a game — regular season or otherwise — since breaking a leg in March.
Keller couldn’t have been blamed if he wishes he would have sat out one more game, because the Coyotes pretty much peaked when Travis Boyd controlled the opening faceoff against Crosby.
Whether that motivated Crosby is hard to say, but he put the Penguins in front to stay at 1:22, as he drove toward the net and, after taking a backhand feed from Guentzel in the right corner, buried the Penguins’ second shot behind Vejmelka.
The most impressive part of that play might have been the way Guentzel hustled to win a race to the puck, negating a potential icing, before sliding it to Crosby.
Zucker pounded a slap shot by Vejmelka from the top of the left circle at 4:12, six seconds after the first of four Penguins power plays in the period expired.
Guentzel then got his first of the season — gee, what took him so long? — at 5:10, flipping in a shot from along the goal line to the right of the net during another man-advantage.
The Penguins ran up a 16-4 edge in shots during the opening 20 minutes, when their only real concern was a questionable hit on Evgeni Malkin by Arizona defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Malkin went down hard, but did not miss any playing time after serving a roughing minor for his role in a scuffle after the hit.
Predictably, with the Penguins having a chokehold on the game, the pace slowed during the second period and there were no goals until Arizona’s Nick Ritchie beat Jarry during a power play at 16:10.
“It can be a bit of a trap (to take a big early lead),” Bryan Rust said. “We know that. It happened to us a bunch last year. It’s something we’re going to be mindful of going forward.”
When Ritchie scored, the Penguins’ penalty-killing forwards were Jeff Carter and Rust; most of the shorthanded work to that point had been handled by the tandems of McGinn and Poehling and Kasperi Kapanen and Archibald.
Ritchie’s goal rejuvenated the Pittsburgh Penguins, not Arizona, and Malkin restored their three-goal advantage with 48.9 seconds to go before the intermission, backhanding a shot past Vejmelka from near the right hash.
That was the 27th goal of Malkin’s career that stemmed from assists by Crosby and Kris Letang; Crosby’s assist was his third point of the game.
The Penguins got their second injury scare of the game at 3:46 of the third, when Arizona’s Conor Timmins lost his footing as he drove toward the net and knocked Jarry’s legs out from under him. Jarry was a bit shaken up, but stayed in the game.
Pettersson was penalized for interfering with Timmins and Ritchie got his second goal of the game on that power play, scoring exactly one minute into it. The Penguins got that one back at 15:01, as Rust punched in a loose puck from the front lip of the crease to make it 5-2.
Kapanen put the Penguins up by four at 17:37, as Danton Heinen threw him a deft cross-ice pass during a two-on-one break and Kapanen scored from the inner edge of the right circle to give the Penguins their margin of victory.