Empty Thoughts: Penguins 2, Ducks 1 | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Empty Thoughts: Penguins 2, Ducks 1

Seth Rorabaugh
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Observations from the Penguins’ 2-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks

Sidney Crosby has plenty of signature performances.

• His “coming out party” as a rookie in 2005-06 when, in his first road game at Philadelphia, he lost teeth thanks to the stick of a brutish Derian Hatcher then silenced his critics – only temporarily in Philadelphia any way – with a breakaway goal in overtime.

• A shootout goal in the snow against the Sabres in the first Winter Classic.

• Dueling hat tricks with nemesis Alex Ovechkin.

• “Iggy!

• Spinning Jason Spezza and the Senators silly.

• A return from a concussion in 2011 which saw him race past overwhelmed Islanders defensemen en route to a backhand goal powerful enough to light up half of Nova Scotia.

• Basically, the entire 2016 Stanley Cup final.

• Toasting Robin Lehner the Sabres with one hand.

• Tormenting Ryan Strome and the Oilers.

Suffice it to say, there will be no shortage of material for whoever edits his highlight video whenever Crosby is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in a decade or so.

A fairly mundane win against the Anaheim Ducks in the embryonic stages of the 2019-20 schedule won’t likely go down as one of his keynote efforts, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another game on Crosby’s adroit resume in which he meant more to the outcome than what he offered on Thursday night.

Crosby was accountable for each of the Penguins’ scores and he was all over the ice in all three zones as he logged a robust 24:02 of ice time – a season high – on 26 shifts.

An inflated workload was required for Crosby as the Penguins have been undermanned up front with so many forwards sidelined. His chore list was even longer in this contest as coach Mike Sullivan shortened the bench considerably starting in the early stages of the second period.

Recent callups Andrew Agozzino and Adam Johnson each recorded only four shifts. For both of them, their last shift came on the sequence leading to Anaheim’s lone goal.

Clearly, Sullivan was not pleased with their offerings.

His feelings on Crosby are much different.

“He’s such an inspiration when he plays the game as hard as he does, as he does most nights,” Sullivan said. “I thought he was a force on both ends of the rink. His commitment to defending is just as hard as it is (in) creating offense for us. His line scores both goals and his line is on the ice when we’re defending the lead when our opponent pulls the goalie.

“He’s the best 200-foot player in the game right now.”

What happened

After a scoreless first period, the Penguins took the contest’s first lead with a power-play score at 2:57 of the second. After Crosby lost a faceoff in the offensive left circle to Ducks forward Derek Grant, Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist muscled Ducks forward Carter Rowney off the puck and fed a forehand pass to Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz at the left point. From there, Schultz went across the ice to Kris Letang at the right point and Letang chopped a shot/pass to the right of the cage where Crosby deflected the puck past the glovehand of goaltender John Gibson. Letang and Schultz had assists.

The Ducks responded only 30 seconds later. Beating Penguins forward Sam Lafferty to a loose puck in the Penguins’ left corner, Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle rimmed it along the boards to Ducks forward Nick Ritchie on the end boards. Ritchie fed a pass low to the left circle where Ducks forward Ondrej Kase separated enough from Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz and lifted a wrister on the near side between goaltender Matt Murray’s right shoulder and the post. Assists went to Ritchie and Guhle.

They went up 2-1 at 7:24 of the third period thanks to the top line. Crosby pushed a puck through the neutral zone fending off Ducks defenseman Josh Manson. Gaining the offensive blue line, he drove to the net off the right wing and fed a pass from the goal line past backchecking Ducks forward Adam Henrique’s stick and into to the slot. As Penguins forward Dominik Simon drove the crease and tied up Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm, forward Jake Guentzel was able to fire a wrister past the blocker of an outstretched Gibson. Crosby and Simon recorded assists.

The Ducks pushed things late, especially on a power play following sloppy tripping penalty by forward Zach Aston-Reese at 10:02 of the second period. The Ducks went at the Penguins hard but couldn’t figure out Murray, who came up with a bizarre save on Ducks forward Rickard Rakell just as the power play expired. Rakell lifted a wrister from the left circle just past the left side of Murray’s lid. The puck somehow sneaked into Murray’s collar and down his back. Murray did a little breakdance on the ensuing scramble to make sure he had the puck and froze play.

Statistically speaking

• The Ducks led in shots, 32-28.

• Rakell led the game with eight shots.

• Schultz led the Penguins with six shots.

• Letang led the Penguins with 28:42 of ice time on 28 shifts.

• Defenseman Cam Fowler led the Ducks with 22:13 of ice time on 23 shifts.

• The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 30-25 (55 percent).

• Crosby was 15 for 25 (60 percent).

• Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf was 5 for 8 (62 percent).

• Penguins forward Brandon Tanev, Schultz, Fowler, Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer, Manson and forward Troy Terry each led the game with two blocked shots.

Historically speaking

• Agozzino made his Penguins debut logging only 1:44 on five shifts. He was also 0 for 1 on faceoffs.

• Agozzino became the 30th player to wear No. 26 in franchise history. His predecessors:

Jim Morrison, Dunc McCallum, Jim Morrison, Mike McMahon, Syl Apps, Pete Mahovlich, Orest Kindrachuk, Paul Mulvey, Steve Gatzos, Troy Loney, Ted Bulley, Wayne Babych, Mike Blaisdell, Mark Kachowski, Mike Stapleton, Richard Park, Dave McLlwain, Petr Klima, Darius Kasparaitis, Garry Valk, Frantisek Kucera, Kent Manderville, Landon Wilson, Ronald Petrovicky, Ruslan Fedotenko, Eric Tangradi, Steve Sullivan, Mark Arcobello, Daniel Winnik.

Randomly speaking

• Teddy Blueger had a strange night just based on the fact that he got into his second career fight at 5:03 of the first period. After Holzer slammed Johnson into the end boards on a forecheck, Blueger – all 6-foot and 185 pounds of him – jumped the 6-foot-3, 213 pound Holzer in retaliation. The fight was one-sided as Holzer fed several rights to Blueger:

• It was only the second career fight for Blueger. He previously fought Tampa Bay forward Adam Erne on Feb. 9.

• What was the strange part of the sequence was all the penalties Blueger received. In addition to a fighting major, he took a 10-minute misconduct and a minor for instigating. Officials tend to be slow to dole those out, even with few remaining enforcers in the NHL, let alone flyweights such as Blueger.

• In all, Blueger ended up with 17 minutes of penalties. He entered the contest with only 15 penalty minutes in his career.

• There was a lot of special teams play in this game as officials awarded six power play opportunities to the Penguins and three to the Ducks. There were only two power plays – each for the Penguins – in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Jets. This contest was called as if the NHL higher-ups issued an e-mail to on-ice officials looking for a quota on penalties.

• Johnson, who left the ice for a few minutes after being hit by Holzer, was limited in ice time like Agozzino. On four shifts he logged 1:24 of ice time.

• Rookie defenseman John Marino played in his second career game, primarily as a partner with Jack Johnson. Marino logged 16:06 of ice time on 22 shifts, including a robust 2:59 on the penalty kill. He had one shot on two attempts.

• Murray bounced back after allowing four goals on only 22 shots vs. the Jets. He made 31 saves, including 12 alone in the third period.

• The Penguins were blanked on a five-on-three power-play opportunity which lasted 1:01. They were blanked on all seven five-on-three chances they saw last season.

• Crosby continues to feast on the Ducks. He now has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 17 career games vs. Anaheim.

• Penguins forward Tanev drew a roughing penalty from Manson which led to Crosby’s power-play goal. He leads the team with three drawn penalties this season.

• Simon also drew two penalties.

• Don’t underestimate how much most coaches love players who can draw penalties. If you can draw penalties, a coach might let you marry their child.

• Poor Dominik Kahun. He is getting elevated minutes given all the injures up front and hasn’t really taken advantage of the opportunity. He did create his own breakaway after he blocked a shot by Holzer at the Penguins’ right point and took off. He approach the Ducks’ net and lifted a wrister over Gibson’s right shoulder which hit the crossbar.

• A potential go-head goal there could have been huge for the Penguins and maybe more so for Kahun.

• Kase continues to be a Penguin killer. He now has six career points (four goals, two assists) in six games vs. the Penguins.

Publicly speaking

• Guentzel on Crosby’s play setting up the game-winning goal:

“He beats a guy and makes a play not really looking. Just a special play and I was happy to be at the end of it.”

• Crosby lauded Hornqvist effort with setting up the power-play goal after Crosby lost the draw:

“That’s the kind of stuff he does. He wins battles, he’s hard on pucks. He was on one knee and I think fighting off two guys to get that one. That’s huge when you can get possession like that, especially when you can fend two guys off. We don’t score without that effort.”

• Was Crosby surprised Hornqvist pulled off a play like that considering he looked to be in terrible shape after being injured in Tuesday’s game?

“With ‘Horny,’ probably not. Very few guys I’d say that about. The way he competes and his tolerance for taking a beating and getting right back up is probably the best I’ve ever seen.”

• Simon on Murray’s “collar” save:

“It looked cool.”

• Crosby on Murray’s play, particularly in the third:

“You know the (opponent) is going to push when you get a lead like that. You don’t want to sit back but that desperation, that urgency, usually teams are going to come at you. And he made some big saves just to hold the lead. Guys were good as far as clearing rebounds and stuff like that. But he had to fight to see a couple of those. Even some of those passes to the side of the net that are hard to find, he was right there. He looked calm in there.”

• Simon on playing simple:

“We needed a win today. … It wasn’t the prettiest win but it was about finding a way. It was a little bit more defense it felt like. (The Ducks) played really good, they played really hard. There wasn’t much space. I’m glad we found a way.”

• Sullivan on Marino:

“We put him in the lineup because we think he can help us win. We put him in the lineup because he’s a good hockey player and he’s shown a lot through training camp and up until the early part of the season. So that’s why the decision was made to put him in the lineup in the first place. He’s big strong kid. He’s got a good stick. He’s mobile, he defends hard, he’s got a little edge to his game and he has poise with the puck. That’s what he’s shown since he’s been here.”

Visually speaking

Game summary.

Event summary.

• Highlights:

Follow the Penguins all season long.

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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