|Hockey! ...as only Gary Bettman envisioned it.|
The Pens would be starting Marc-Andre Fleury for the second consecutive game, and Pittsburgh would be playing the Coyotes for the first time since what amounted to two an all-important wins against the Coyotes in late March to keep the Penguins in the postseason.
Pittsburgh was shut out by Antti Niemi (who, by the way, also picked up two assists), so it's accurate to say that perennial whipping boy Rob Scuderi is tied for the team lead in scoring.
Needless to say, Pens head coach Mike Johnston and GM Jim Rutherford were hoping for more offense from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and THE WINGER THAT CAN WALK ON WATER™, Phil Kessel.
In roster news, fan favorite Bobby Farnham was scratched in lieu of Kevin Porter...Porter, as in, the kind of beer I consumed at the lovely Beer Market on the North Shore to celebrate my birthday (wheeeeeeeeee).
First Period Action:
The opening stanza didn't feature much in the way of goal scoring (point in fact, there were none), but both teams traded quality chances, leaving Marc-Andre Fleury and the uniquely named Mike Smith to keep their respective teams in the contest.
Smith was tested by the Penguins' power-play, which failed to convert on two first period opportunities despite the Pens splitting up their wealth of offensive riches into two potent PP units (instead of loading up and having Malkin play at the point alongside Kris Letang).
|This. But on ice skates.|
The highlight of period one— depending on your team allegiance— was the "collision" between Patric Hornqvist and
The Coyotes would fail to score on that power-play opportunity, just like Pittsburgh would fail to tally on two separate penalties on the Coyotes' Stefan Elliott.
Matt Cullen would enjoy his best period as a Penguin, drawing a penalty and involving himself offensively (as much as one can do without recording a point).
Second Period Action:
|Pictured: Phil Kessel's wrist shot.|
The Pens didn't have much time to enjoy getting off their collective goal-scoring schnide as Jordan Martinook would find a loose puck around Fleury and backhand the loose biscuit past the snow-angel'd Flower to give Arizona back the lead.
To his credit, Patric Hornqvist kept skating into the face of Mike Smith, drawing the ire (and fists) of the Coyotes. Eventually, Hornqvist and Steve Downie were both sent off for mutually slashin one another off of a faceoff.
The period would end with the Coyotes once again leading in period shots (13-11, 26-17 overall).
Third Period Action:
The game opened up significantly in the final stanza, and starting at around three minutes in, the Pens Vs Coyotes officially turned into the Fleury vs. Smith show.
Smith in particular was amazing, stopping multiple point-blank, five-alarm Penguins' chances (including a grand larceny on Nick Bonino, who had a wide open net to work with until Smith flashed the pads from deep within his own net).
To his credit, Fleury robbed the night's first goal scorer Rieder of a second marker, while Patric Hornqvist was denied rubbing salt into the (alleged) wounds of Smith by the Arizona goalie's great reaction save after David Perron set up #72 from behind the Coyotes' net.
Marc-Andre Fleury would keep the Pens only one goal down with a flourished (see: exaggerated) glove save on Brad Richardson from in close.
Late in the period, Evgeni Malkin would be sent off for tripping while trying to pick up Kris Letang following a bad Letang turnover, putting the Pens on the PK with precious little time left on the clock.
Pittsburgh then continued a new Mike Johnston trend— playing Crosby on the penalty kill— and during his forty seconds on the ice, the Penguins' captain was able to make two crafty plays to give the Pens an offensive push while a man down..
Malkin would return to the ice with just over one minute to go in regulation, and with Fleury pulled for the extra attacker, the Pens struggled to enter the offensive zone with possession. It would take Pittsburgh until 25 seconds to get into the Phoenix end of the ice with possession.
The Pens managed a late furious charge, and despite an offensive faceoff opportunity, couldn't manage the equalizer, and Pittsburgh fell to 0-2 on the new season.
Arizona would outshoot the Pens 39-28 in their victory, and an excellent Fleury effort in net would ultimately go for naught.
The Penguins will try to win their first of the campaign on October 13th against the Montreal Canadians.