After having a hearty stretch of home games in December, the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre, Saturday. The game marks the first step of a stretch where the Penguins will play six of their next eight games, and seven of 10 on the road before the All-Star break. The Penguins will also contend with a quick turn around as Saturday is the first game of a back-to-back with the second game set for an early 5 p.m. puck drop in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Because of the quick turnaround, the Penguins left goalie Tristan Jarry at home and recalled Wheeling goalie Emil Larmi to be the backup. AHL goalie Casey DeSmith was to be the backup Saturday, but a complication arose; DeSmith lost his passport.
It also appears injured Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is nearing a return, but according to him, there are still hurdles to clear. Matt Murray will start for the Penguins while Larmi will serve as his back up. Montreal will start Carey Price in net.
In their last nine games against Montreal, the Penguins have scored four or more goals six times and have points in eight of the last nine games against Montreal (6-2-1). Going back further, the Penguins are 8-3-1 in their last 12 games versus them.
The Penguins dropped their first game of 2020 against the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in OT, Thursday. Despite a late power play and chances in regulation to earn two points, the Penguins could not muster an offensive push in the first game without forward Jake Guentzel. After three straight games of the Penguins opening the scoring less than three minutes into the game, the tables were turned. Tomas Hertl (15) found the net 2:48 after the initial puck drop. The goal put the Penguins in unfamiliar territory, down early, but they found the equalizer later in the period. Patric Hornqvist collected an errant pass and fired a shot off the post and in to tie the game. San Jose spoiled any momentum as they used a Logan Couture (13) marker a minute later to reclaim their one-goal lead.
The Penguins started the second period ready to tie early, but it wasn’t until 51 seconds left in the period they found their much sought after tying goal. Bryan Rust weaved a superb feed to Patric Hornqvist at the top of the crease, who lifted it home for his second goal to tie the game. The goal was Hornqvist’s third in two games since he returned to the lineup from the IR.
After no goals were scored in third, the teams went OT to fight for the extra point. After the inability to capitalize on a power play late in regulation, the Penguins committed a penalty 46 second into the extra frame to give San Jose a prime chance. Brent Burns played hero as he ripped a power-play goal to give San Jose the overtime win. Joe Thornton earned his 1,080 NHL assist on the goal to place him seventh all-time.
Tristan Jarry, fresh off of NHL honors, played another solid game despite the loss. Jarry stopped 29 of 32 but was instrumental in the effort to earn a point for the Penguins. Aaron Dell despite a poor season so far earned the win by making 36 saves. You can read more about the Penguins game in Dan’s Recap and the PHN Extra Report Card.
Montreal and Tampa Bay scored a total of three goals in the first period but nothing after that. Despite rallying late in the period, Montreal lost 2-1 as Tampa Bay extended their win streak to five. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov scored the goals for Tampa Bay. Jeff Petry tallied his sixth of the year and added six of the team’s 39 shots for Montreal. Andrei Vasilevskiy outdueled Carey Price for the win by stopping 38 of 39 shots. Price made 21 saves in the loss.
Evgeni Malkin starts the Penguins road stretch with a team-leading 17 points in 12 road games. His 1.42 points-per-game average on the road is sixth-best in the NHL. Malkin has picked up points in all but one of his 12 road games this season and is currently riding an active eight-game road point-streak (3G-10A). In Montreal, Malkin has 25 career points (10G-15A) in 21 games. He has points in four-straight visits to the Bell Centre (2G-4A) and has found the scoresheet in 10 of his last 11 trips to Montreal overall (4G-11A).
Barring an unforeseen scratch, forward Zach Aston-Reese will skate in his 100th career NHL contest, Saturday. The undrafted college free agent has appeared in his first 99 games with the Penguins over the last three seasons, recording 33 points (16G-17A). He has the third-most hits (88) on the Penguins squad and has the third-most hits in the NHL (1,154) currently.
Sidney Crosby (Core Muscle, skating)
Nick Bjugstad (Core Muscle, skating)
Brian Dumoulin (Ankle, IR)
Justin Schultz (Lower Body, IR)
Brendan Gallagher (Concussion, Out)
Johnathan Drouin (Wrist, IR)
Paul Bryon (Knee, IR)
Joel Armia (Upper Body, IR)
Matt Peca (Leg, IR)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||20.3% (16th NHL)||82.4% (7th NHL)|
|New Jersey Devils||17.7% (22nd NHL)||82.0% (10th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jason Zucker||Sidney Crosby||Conor Sheary|
|Patrick Marleau||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Evan Rodrigues||Jared McCann||Patric Hornqvist|
|Brandon Tanev||Teddy Blueger||Sam Lafferty|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
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