The Pittsburgh Penguins (23-10-5) stumbled through the first five games of their six-game road trip. They won three of the first five but removing an adrenaline-fueled win over the Anaheim Ducks which included the return of Evgeni Malkin, they fumbled assignments and details of their game. The Vegas Golden Knights (23-15-2) hung three in the first period and it looked like more of the same.
Until the Penguins dominated the second period. And the start of the third. The Penguins scored five unanswered goals, the first four in about 15 minutes from the middle of the second period through the first minutes of the third. Sidney Crosby scored the empty netter in a Penguins 5-3 win at T-Mobile Arena.
Early in the third period, Jake Guentzel scored the fourth Penguins goal less than two minutes after the Penguins tied the game. Guentzel (20) pounced on a loose puck near the net and scored unassisted with a wraparound into the empty side of the net. Guentzel has scored 20 or more goals in five straight seasons.
The goal capped the Penguins’ furious rally.
The Penguins stated their intentions to come back from a 3-0 first-period deficit when they fired the first 13 shots of the period, earned a pair of power plays, and scored two goals in the first eight minutes.
Jason Zucker, playing his first game since Dec. 19, scored his first goal since Nov. 22. About seven minutes into the second, Zucker found a loose puck in a net-front scrum as defenders scrambled for it and Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner tried to find it. Zucker (5) chipped the puck into the net as it came off the moorings and Jeff Carter poked at it, too.
After an explanation from officials, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer did not challenge, but Lehner wasn’t a happy camper.
“I don’t think it was a goal. I was on my crease line and I ended up in the net. That was not my doing,” Lehner said. “They shouldn’t be able to push me into the net. I thought it was goalie interference.”
However, replays appeared to show it was Vegas defenseman Ben Hutton who contacted Lehner, not Jeff Carter.
Teddy Blueger capitalized on another opportunity just 49 seconds later. Mike Matheson zapped a stretch pass to Brian Boyle at the Vegas blue line for a contested breakaway. Boyle had to carry a defender to the net, and Blueger (8) buried the rebound.
The Pittsburgh Penguins outshot Vegas 18-6 in the second period and the Evgeni Malkin line tied it early in the third.
About 30 seconds into the third, Malkin won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly. He pulled it back to Kapanen whose shot whizzed through traffic. Scorers later changed the goal when TV replays showed the shot deflected off Zucker’s unsuspecting stick. Zucker (6) was skating towards the net, with his back to the shot.
Early in the first period, Chandler Stephenson got behind Penguins defenseman John Marino for a clean look at goalie Tristan Jarry. Stephenson (11) didn’t have a good angle but slipped the shot through Jarry’s five-hole for a rare softy against the All-Star goalie.
Midway through the first period, Evgeni Malkin guarded Evgenii Dadonov in front of the Penguins net. Dadonov (10) tipped Mark Stone’s long slap shot past Jarry, too.
Vegas scored a power-play goal in the final 30 seconds of the first period. Nicolas Roy had a couple of Grade A chances on the man-advantage. He finished the second one. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s shot was mostly blocked by Marino near the net, but Roy (8) immediately stuffed the loose puck into the net.
Vegas scored three goals on the first six shots.
Zucker has six shots in the first 40 minutes and seven overall. The Penguins outshot Vegas 37-26.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won four of the six games on their road trip. They host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.