The Pittsburgh Penguins were down for the count. They squandered six power plays, were down two goals, and had about half of the third period remaining, yet they rallied (again) to earn a point in the 3-2 OT loss to the Boston Bruins.
And that’s when the PHN turning point occurred. It may not have seemed like much. Penguins rookie defenseman P-O Joseph put himself in a good position behind the net. His speed allowed him to clearly beat the forecheck to the contested spot and make a play on the puck…until Boston Bruins winger Nick Ritchie tripped Joseph.
Yes, the Penguins squandered their sixth power play, but the second unit’s building pressure culminated in Jason Zucker’s first goal of the season.
(Edit: the original version stated the Penguins had seven power plays).
The Penguins didn’t have much good luck, but that was mostly of their own making.
Here’s Zucker’s goal:
Let’s get to Joseph’s play.
The kid is better than the film from the AHL showed. In just a few games, he’s proving he can play in the NHL. The Penguins coaches, Mike Sullivan and Todd Reirden, are sheltering him. He played just 13 minutes on Tuesday night, and the coaches are attempting to keep him away from high-pressure situations while the 21-year-old adjusts to the NHL game.
But when he’s on the ice, his speed is immediately evident as he quickly retrieves pucks well ahead of the forecheck. Joseph often has the extra step other Penguins defensemen lack to turn to his forehand and make a good up-pass.
But here’s the subtle little turning point which set the Penguins’ comeback in full-forward motion. Joseph beat both forecheckers to the puck behind the net. Then, he outworked both forecheckers until he was brought to the ice.
Penguins power play. Eventual Penguins goal. From this bit of hard work.
PHN isn’t ready to endorse putting Joseph out there for 25 minutes against the opposing top line. However, Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin appeared to twist awkwardly at the end of the second period, and Dumoulin didn’t play in the third period.
If Dumoulin will miss time, Joseph is the ONLY natural LHD left on the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL roster. Kevin Czuczman is the only other LHD remaining. The Penguins began the season with 10 defensemen at the ready. They could be down to five by Wednesday, pending Dumoulin’s evaluation.
Ready or not, P-O Joseph may be dropped into the deep end. He made the turning point play on Tuesday.