|(the Penguins' offense and Division Title aspirations, that is)|
This was the first of two games between the two teams this season. Pittsburgh entered the night chasing three teams for the Metropolitan Division crown, but would still make the playoffs (if the season ended tomorrow) as the #1 wild card in the Eastern Conference.
By contrast, the Blues started the contest second in the entire NHL with points (80), trailing only their division leader, Nashville (81).
The Penguins' power-play had struggled, failing in its last 214 attempts (citation needed) while surrendering a game-winning shorty to Brandon "Freaking" Dubinsky during the Pens' 2-1 loss Thursday night.
Because of the back-to-back slate of games for Pittsburgh this weekend, the Pens started The Sound of Music between the pipes ("Thom-as Greiss....Thom-as Greiss") against the Blues, presumably saving Marc-Andre Fleury for the playoff hunting Florida Panthers on Sunday.
First Period Action:
Head coach Mike Johnston opened with changes to his lineup, and by reuniting the apparently ailing Sidney Crosby with Patric Hornqvist on the Penguins' first line, the coaching staff was hoping to jump start the play of the defending league MVP.
Crosby and Hornqvist created a scoring chance early after the Penguins' captain skated through the bulk of the St. Louis team en route to feeding Hornqvist for what amounted to a weak backhander that was turned aside by St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott.
Elliott's counterpart in net, Thomas Greiss, was challenged early when last year's NHL version of Brady Anderson, Alex Steen (33 goals, whaaaaat), found himself skating in alone. Greiss made a Thomas Anderson save on Steen's shot, keeping the game scoreless.
TJ Oshie, the Herb Brooksian hero of USA/Russia in the Sochi Olympics, quarterbacked a prolonged Blues possession just after the halfway mark of the period. The Penguins had multiple clearing attempts fail before a spent Evgeni Malkin and Blake Comeau squandered a 2-on-1 chance when Comeau's wrister from the slot was back-checked away by the aforementioned Oshie.
Crosby looked like his old self through the majority of the first period, although his recent penchant for deferral remained.
The Penguins would make like Rambo and draw first blood when Blake "Comeau Eileen" found a loose puck in the St. Louis end and wheeled a backhander past Barbie (Dr. Perry Cox, 2006).
Sidney Crosby ended the period with what can only be described as a vintage 87 maneuver: Crosby went wide, got low to the ice to establish position and leverage, and then went backhand-to-forehand in a flash, flicking the puck harmlessly off of the far post before he was leveled and flipped through the air.
Second Period Action:
The Pens came out with guns blazing like Emilio Estevez and Lou Diamond Phillips to open the second period, but couldn't find the twine to double their lead.
Vladamir Tarasenko, he of 31 goals, was then Night Fox'd by Greiss (Ocean, 2004) on a tremendous save.
Later, after Maxim "I am NOT worthless!" Lapierre drew a penalty on an aborted breakaway, Patric Hornqvist became the first Penguin since Zarley Zalapski to score a goal with the man advantage (again, citation needed). Crosby and sudden Norris Trophy contender Kris Letang picked up the helpers, and Pittsburgh had built themselves a 2-0 lead.
One "Stairway to Heaven" later (that's roughly 9 minutes for those of you scoring at home), Comeau Comeau Comeau Comeau Comeau Chameleon scored his second of the night and 14th in just 37 games following a fancy deflection from about 20 feet out of Elliott, who looked skyward and asked to phone home.
Greiss played his angles well and kept St. Louis off of the board, and the siren sounded with Pittsburgh ahead 3-0, and also leading in shots (20-14) and hits.
Third Period Action:
Entering the final period of regulation with a three goal lead, the Penguins abandoned their previous strategy of turtling (see: praying) in lieu of maintaining offensive pressure and possession against the Blues.
After Ian Cole was sent off for boarding, Sidney Crosby thought he had scored his team's second PP goal of the night, only the goal was disallowed following a legit 10 minute video replay.
St. Louis's David Backes, already a -2 on the score sheet, was embarrassed following a vicious Kris Letang check, and proceeded to earn himself a misconduct with just over half of the third period remaining.
Tarasenko picked up a two minute penalty for elbowing, sending the Pittsburgh power-play back onto the ice. Almost on cue, the Pens surrendered a point blank scoring chance, but fortunately, the person shooting the puck was former teammate Marcel Goc, and so Goc was denied by his fellow Germany countryman, Greiss.
The Penguins would make the score 4-0 (for the second time, if you count Crosby's obvious-to-everyone-but-the-cameras tally) when the much maligned Brandon Sutter would backhand a puck past a beleaguered Elliott to end his personal stretch of poor play.
Sutter's goal may or may not have been a power-play tally: the arena and online stat officials couldn't seem to agree, so let's just assume that Brandon Sutter scored a power-play goal to make the entire situation all that more HOLY COWish.
Now down four goals, the Blues would respond: Dmitrij Jaskin, whose parents were totally trying to cheat at Words with Friends with that "silent J" thing, slipped a puck through the wickets of Thomas Greiss and the shutout was broken.
And then, with 1:22 left, St. Louis would strike again, this time with Ian Cole blasting a one-timer past a screened Greiss to put the Blues only two goals behind.
The Blues would then pull Elliott in an attempt to tie things up, but neither team would be able to convert, and Pittsburgh would end their minor skid by emerging victorious 4-2 on Saturday night.