The game was played at breakneck speed with few whistles or speed bumps. On the clean sheet Edmonton ice, which is universally considered the best in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins depth, skating and goaltending beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. System and structure held the Penguins together while grinding play created puck possession and fourth straight victory.
It was one of the more interesting games of the season, though perhaps it was played so quickly it was less exciting. At times, it had an international flavor. There was 52 hits total, but few teeth-rattling, Don Cherry video style knocks.
Zach Aston-Reese had a pair of assists and the Penguins scored two breakaway goals including one when Aston-Reese zapped a headman pass to Joseph Blandisi, who just escaped from the penalty box.
“I thought we had a better start. We’re trying to check and defend hard, especially against a team that has a dynamic offense like Edmonton does,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought, for the most part, we did a good job in the first.”
This was the type of game the previous versions of the Pittsburgh Penguins would have taken the bait and damned the torpedoes for full firewagon hockey. Instead, this crew–perhaps by necessity, perhaps by choice–stayed within the system but played at full speed. There were breakdowns and battles lost. There were also more battles won and the supposedly offensively challenged Penguins again scored four or more goals while again allowing two or less.
“What I like about our team is (Edmonton) got a goal late in that second period against our power play. That could be a huge momentum shift,” Sullivan said. “I love the resilience of the group. We came in after the second period and just said hey, we’ve got to put it behind us. We’ve got a minute left on the power play, let’s try to get a goal.”
The Penguins did get that goal in the first minute of the third period.