The Pittsburgh Penguins (28-12-5) grind line with Teddy Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese and Brandon Tanev thrived in the tight-checking slog against the Arizona Coyotes. And it was no surprise the Penguins best line on Sunday scored the tying goal in the final minutes as Brandon Tanev scored to force the Penguins fourth overtime in their last six games. Then Blueger lifted the Penguins in the shootout as the Penguins beat Arizona 4-3 in a shootout at the Gila Arena on Sunday.
Blueger scored in the eighth round of the shootout to complete the Penguins perfect three-game west coast road trip.
“I think that’s appropriate because he’s played very well on the road trip,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Penguins beat Vegas, Colorado and finally Arizona.
“The end of the game, it was not pretty but we played hard. It was a long road trip,” Evgeni Malkin said. “Sometimes it happens. We played hard every shift. Guys who are new here (contributing). It’s an amazing team.”
The Penguins also avoided a potentially hairy moment in final minutes of overtime on Sunday. Blueger was called for hooking, though Arizona forward Connor Garland may have helped the call. However, on the ensuing rush Garland high-sticked Evgeni Malkin and the penalties were offsetting. The teams finished the 65-minute game still tied.
“(Shootouts) usually don’t go that long, but that was a deep one,” Sullivan said as he cracked a smile. “When you get down to that part of the bench, there’s not a lot of huge body of work to lean on to say ‘Ok this guy is 40% or this guy is 20%’, so it becomes more about a feel thing.”
Tanev became the eighth Penguins player to score 10 goals this season.
In an otherwise flat or painfully flat afternoon first period, the Penguins scored their second five-on-three goal this season. Just two minutes into the game, Arizona forward Clayton Keller took a slashing penalty which was shortly followed by Lawson Crouse’s delay of game penalty.
The Penguins needed only 18 seconds on the two-man advantage. Bryan Rust slid a pass across the crease to Jared McCann (13) who slam-dunked it into the wide-open net.
However, the Penguins had only one more shot in the first period. They topped out at two shots on goal when Teddy Blueger had a chance midway through the period.
Late in the first period, Arizona tangled the Penguins disinterested defenders and forwards in knots. Taylor Hall skated behind the Penguins net but no one covered Connor Garland in front. Hall feathered an easy pass to Garland (15) who cut to the net and popped it past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
It was the first Arizona goal in more than two games.
Early in the second period, Patric Hornqvist nearly scored his 11th goal of the season. With Arizona goalie Adin Hill sprawled in the crease, Hornqvist partially fanned on the shot.
However, about one minute later, Hornqvist (11) made good with the Penguins second power-play goal of the game. Hornqvist charged from the right-wing corner and beat Hill through the five-hole.
However, Arizona again tied the game several minutes later. Former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall (10) snapped a sneaky wrist shot through a screen and Jarry didn’t see the shot.
The Penguins blitzed Arizona in the second period with extended puck possession and fired 22 shots on Hill. However, the Penguins could not get the third goal, including when Zach Aston-Reese hit the post during an extended shift in the offensive zone.
Winger Alex Galchenyuk featured prominently in his return to Arizona after the Penguins acquired him last June for Phil Kessel, but it wasn’t the highlight he probably envisioned. Galchenyuk took a third period slashing penalty then stayed on the ice after the penalty. He failed to cover Arizona center Derek Stepan in front of the Penguins net and failed to disrupt the centering pass to Stepan which became the go-ahead goal.
Jarry stopped 25 of 28 shots and seven of the eight shootout attempts. Hill stopped 30 of 33 shots but allowed two shootout attempts.
Evgeni Malkin had a pair of assists and passed Jaromir Jagr for third place in Penguins franchise history. Malkin has 642 career assists.