The Pittsburgh Penguins had exactly one high-danger scoring chance in the first 40 minutes. One, lonely, singular, solitary high-danger chance according to NaturalStatTrick.com, but the Penguins had a 4-1 lead and complete command, then cruised to a 7-3 win at PPG Paints Arena. The game was rarely in doubt.
Sidney Crosby scored four points (1g, 3a) and Evgeni Malkin (2g, 1a) made sure Crosby’s big return was not wasted. The Penguins didn’t have to skate Minnesota out of the building, instead, they remained patient and waited for their opportunities.
Then they buried those chances.
“It’s hard to get surprised by what Sid accomplishes on the ice,” Sullivan said in deferential praise. “When you watch what he’s been able to do, in my time here, it’s just hard to get surprised. He’s just so capable.”
That’s coach-speak for “Sidney Crosby is really good at hockey.”
The Penguins power play scored a pair of goals with quick puck movement in the low zone. Bryan Rust and Malkin worked a nearly flawless give-and-go for the first power-play marker. The pair also hooked up for the third goal when Malkin drew both defenders and made a blind drop pass to a wide-open Rust in the slot.
“You can see, when those guys (Dominik Kahun, Rust, Malkin) come through the neutral zone with speed, you can see the threat they can pose,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Playing with the lead allowed the Penguins to stay patient, despite Minnesota’s conservative posture. Much like the San Jose Sharks who last week defended first and always, Minnesota was determined to win by preventing the Penguins from scoring.
Penguins Tactical Adjustments:
Despite the 2-0 score, the first period was a slog for the Penguins. They gobbled up a pair of power plays and snapped one goal, but at even strength, they were entangled in the layered Minnesota neutral zone mess.
The Penguins game was patient, but it was also missing a few of their staples.