RECAP 39: Streaking into the New Year

The Penguins were in Minnesota last night to close out the first calendar year since 2015 that didn’t see them lift the Stanley Cup. One month ago it looked pretty clear that 2019 would end with the Penguins missing the playoffs. 2018 ended with the Penguins playing their best hockey of the year as they carried a five game winning streak into the final contest of the year. Suddenly, a team that many were fuming over after putting up 2 wins during a 10 game stretch in November is closing in on the top of the Metro.

This was Sidney Crosby’s 900th career game, Sid becomes the second player in team history to suit up for 900 games and is 15 behind Lemieux for the franchise lead.

If you read our gameday then you know there were no changes to the predicted starting lineup as Bryan Rust and Jamie Oleksiak remain out with injury.

The game started and Minnesota is boring, not the hockey team, well them too, but overall everything Minnesota. Less than four minutes in Riley Sheahan took a hooking penalty and the Pens third best penalty killing squad was put to the test early. During the powerplay the Penguins were going about their business until Derek Grant decided he didn’t want to play anymore, and the Wild capitalized.

How was Koivu this open? The Penguins were down two of their four regular penalty killers with Rust out of the lineup and Sheahan in the box. Derek Grant and Sidney Crosby pushed the puck into the offensive zone but the Wild turned the play the other way as Grant skated all the way behind the Wild goal, as he tried to recover the play looked like this moments before the goal:

Three forwards covered by two defenders and a back-checking Crosby with Grant following closely, nothing wrong here. It was at this point Grant decided to go for a change:

The player at the far right is Koivu, previously covered just by the presence of Grant, now wide open:

A simple decision leads to a veteran with an hour to shoot the puck, not good Bob.

The game settled into 5v5 for a good chunk of the period but neither team really got an edge, though the Wild look like they belong in the late 90’s with the clutch and grab style of hockey. 13 minutes in the Penguins received a powerplay when Matt Cullen made a nice in-and-out move to dance around Nate Prosser who was left with nothing to do but knee the old man. The Penguins powerplay went to work avenging their PK units mistake, and Phil Kessel took over the show with a killer pass to Crosby.

SIDNEY CROSBY (18) Assisted by KESSEL (28) & LETANG (25) @ 15:43 PPG

The Penguins powerplay right now is off the charts, and this pass by Phil Kessel is just bonkers. With the assist Letang is up to 33 points in 37 games, which puts him on pace for his second-best season (16 G, 51 A in 71 games in 2015-16).

The game went back to 5v5 and immediately went back to neither team having an edge. It looked like the period was going to conclude in a tie until an innocent puck was sent into the Wild zone and Zach Aston-Reese took a page out of Guentzel’s playbook by taking away the play along the boards. After a sweet play by ZAR the puck got to the front of the net and Phil the Thrill was ready to fire the grill.

PHIL KESSEL (17) Assisted by CROSBY (30) & ZAR (4) @ 19:39

When the Penguins were struggling they weren’t making the plays that ZAR makes here. This is an extra bit of effort that directly results in a turnover and then a goal. If you recall, Jake Guentzel picked the Wild twice on this same play the last time these two teams met, and ZAR gets away with it again. This isn’t an effort you give if a coach has lost the room, just saying.

Nothing happened in the remaining 21 seconds.

The second period was not the same as the first period, it was the period of Casey DeSmith. The Wild were getting grade A scoring chance after grade A scoring chance but DeSmith was just not having it. A few posts were sprinkled in there too, but man, the Penguins had no business carrying a lead into the mid-point of the period. The Wild even ha a goal disallowed at some point in the first ten minutes. As if the period couldn’t give Minnesota fans any more grief, Riley Sheahan silenced the house with what felt like the Penguins first shot of the frame…

RILEY SHEAHAN (5) Assisted by KESSEL (29) & CULLEN (4) @ 10:19

When did Riley Sheahan score 4 goals before this one?? I must’ve missed that during my studying period, or it didn’t happen.

The rest of the period was exactly what happened before the Sheahan goal. The Wild were bringing it but DeSmith was nuts. I never noticed that the words “Pittsburgh Penguins” on DeSmith’s mask look like a giant villain smile. Towards the end of the frame the Penguins gave up an odd-man rush when Jack Johnson pinched, Marcus Pettersson made a nice recovery and then a body flew into the frame, I thought it was Johnson making up for his mistake…

Sidney Crosby with yet another effort to send a message to the world that he is not losing this year. Somehow the Penguins managed to get out of the period without giving up a goal.

The Wild outshoot the Pens 13-7 in the period but DeSmith was just spectacular.

The third was all about playing defense and the Penguins did this perfectly. Sullivan is using the third period leads as what I like to call “playoff practice,” and the Penguins managed the puck in this period beautifully. I would expect the Penguins to start playing every third period they enter with a lead similar to this one, it’s something we saw Sullivan do over the last few years during the second half of the season, and it is encouraging to see the team succeed. With less than 5 minutes left, Zach Parise put the moves on Crosby and danced his way to a goal to make it a one-goal game

Is Juuso Riikola frozen in this gif?

The Wild brought everything they could in the final four minutes but the Penguins were prepared. Kris Letang made a really nice play without a stick to kick the puck out of danger. Moments later the Captain, our Captain, sacrificed the body with a block in the final seconds. It takes a team effort, and that’s what this team gave. The clock clicked down to zero signaling the end of the calendar year, and something that generally only happens after eating Taco Bell,



  • The Penguins goaltending has gone from woe to woah and it has completely changed the dynamic of this season
  • With his 18th goal and 30th assist on the season Crosby finishes his 900th career game with 1164 points. Alex Ovechkin did not get a point in the Caps 6-3 loss to Nashville, leaving him with 1167 points in 1041 career games.
  • The Penguins are suddenly 3 points out of the Metro lead, look out.
  • Happy New Year everyone, here’s to a great 2019!