As the camera gave a bunch of Penguins some face time during the anthems, it felt like we were Experiencing the Evolution all over again. That feeling was punctuated watching the Penguins lines being introduced. Harry Zolnierczyk was on the second line. THE SECOND LINE.
The Pens were missing over half of their salary in this one. And Bylsma probably was crying a little bit when he couldn’t pen Engelland’s name in the lineup. But the world moved on.
The Penguins winning games the way they are is a combination of everything.
– It has a lot to do with organizational continuity. Guys at the lower level are playing the same systems.
– Teams like the Leafs just aren't that good.
– Some teams are taking this lineup lightly.
– Solid goaltending.
It really is something, though. 7 AHL players, rookies, etc.
If injuries on the blue line are a good thing, these injuries are probably the best thing to happen for a while. The Pens are getting a real good look at the young bucks coming up through the system and can act accordingly in trades later this season. Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta were the top pairing in this game:
Good lord. Maatta is 19 years old, by the way. When we were 19, we had troubling logging 24:17 minutes awake every day, let alone in a brutal NHL game.
And what a game from Bortuzzo. You could tell the Pens' bench loved every minute of it. Crosby even let his guard down in the post-game interview with Potash and we caught a sliver of personality from him.
The Pens got on the board 39 seconds in. Dumoulin put one on net. It ended up hitting Phaneuf’s leg, Conner’s stick, and then Bernier before sneaking in. 1-0.
Phaneuf vs. Crosby
How big of a stiff is Dion Phaneuf? If Dion Phaneuf was a top-tier NHL defender, the matchup would be great, but it is really just more embarrassing for Phaneuf, watching him try to keep up with Crosby. Always great, though, to watch Crosby be put in a tough matchup.
Dumoulin went to the box for a trip, and the Pens decided to kill that penalty; no big deal.
A lot of feels came back for us (and probably a lot of Pens fans) when we saw a left-handed defenseman wearing number 55 making plays. Emotional. Best part of Samuelsson’s game: he shoots the puck.
About halfway through the period, Dupuis got lit up by Phaneuf. Lighting someone up is easy to do when you leave your feet.
Pens were outshooting the Leafs 11-3 at the time and ended up having a 15-7 advantage at the end of the first.
Bortuzzo fought Troy Bodie later so he could be on “24/7.”
Really chippy game, and it would get much worse.
Niskanen had to go to the box because Nazem Kadri is weak. Is Kadri supposed to be good?
Morgan Rielly put in his first NHL goal on that PP. 1-1.
The Pens’ young blue line held its own the first half of the game, but the Leafs started swarming more and more. The dam was supposed to burst at any moment, but it just wouldn’t budge. Fleury was the puppet-master behind it all. He slowed the game down for his D and played a smart game.
Then another fight happened. It was Bodie again, this time against Zach Sill after Sill bumped into Rielly. Everyone could breathe easy because it was obvious The Code was still intact.
Later, Crosby and Kadri got into it when Kadri tried to give Crosby a flying elbow but missed.
Crosby turned and gave him the business and went to the box while Kadri grabbed himself on his way back to the bench. The Pens needed a big kill and got it.
At the end of the period, Phaneuf and Zolnierczyk got into it before a faceoff, and they both got sent off. During their journey to their locker rooms, Crosby and Kadri started having some words at the faceoff dot.
The third period had all the ingredients for an insane ending.
(a.k.a. the Period Jerry D'Amigo almost died)
The third period started slow. The Penguins had a powerplay, but it isn't even worth talking about. Things didn't really pick up until about seven minutes in. The game went crazy when Megna and Bernier collided as Bernier was coming out to play a puck…
It was a nasty collision. Morgan Rielly decided to crosscheck Megna as Megna got up and started to skate back to the bench.
Then Robert Bortuzzo came in like a wrecking ball. Bortuzzo smoked Jerry D'Amigo:
You can be sure there will be lots of hot takes about that hit.
Bylsma's face lol.
So Borts got called for a penalty, and the Pens killed it. The Leafs almost scored right after the penalty expired, though:
Leafs fans are the best.
Jake Gardiner had a game-turning 30 seconds. First he iced the puck when he didn't have to. Off the following faceoff, Gardiner tried to get the puck out, but Bort kept it in, passing to Dupuis. Dupuis found 87 all alone in the slot.
What a mistake by the Leafs.
Right after that, D'Amigo returned from his earlier hit. And then Bortuzzo put him down like a stepchild again:
The Pens’ defense then dug in. They would be put to the test when Nazem Kadri fell and it got called a penalty.
Olli Maatta is 19, and he shut down Phil Kessel all night long, all night. Usually the only 19 thing that shuts down Kessel is the hoagie he eats before the game. Fleury saw a few shots, but the Pens’ penalty kill was great again. Leafs hit a post somewhere in the last five minutes, too.
On the penalty kill, Sutter stole the puck from Phaneuf.
Empty net from center ice. 3-1.