Brandon Tanev’s daring overtime goal gives Penguins win over Avalanche
Brandon Tanev isn’t timid.
The laceration on his nose, which never seems to heal, would suggest he’s not afraid of much on an NHL rink.
Regularly involved in truculent on-ice interactions and consistently the entity initiating contact instead of waiting for its arrival, Tanev is no shrinking violet.
The courage he displayed Wednesday at PPG Paints was undeniable.
But it didn’t manifest itself in a blocked shot or an altercation with an agitated defenseman.
It came in a daring short-handed score in overtime that gave the Penguins a 3-2 victory in a fiercely contested game with the Colorado Avalanche.
His decision to challenge the powerful Avalanche power play with a dash on net wasn’t so much confident as it was audacious.
It was also a little lucky.
During a four-on-three power play for the Avalanche, Tanev took a puck at his blue line and, taking advantage of an abundance of unoccupied real estate with only seven skaters present, he embarked on a weaving trek through the neutral zone, into the offensive left circle and toward the Colorado net.
Fending off Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, he pushed a forehand shot toward the cage, which glanced off the left leg of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer then deflected off the stick of backchecking Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and into the net.
Tanev’s jaunt against the Avalanche’s power play, which entered the contest converting at a robust 27.3%, ninth best in the NHL, impressed his teammates.
“I just saw him get the puck, and we know what great speed he has,” said defenseman Marcus Pettersson. “They had been on the ice for a little while. I think they were pretty tired. A great effort by him to take it there. Obviously, bounces are going to happen. If you take it to the net, good things will happen.
“It was very, very brave of him. A great play.”
It was also somewhat calculated.
“There’s obviously more space on the ice and you want to take advantage of that,” said Tanev, who scored his first goal as a member of the Penguins. “The guys on the ice, Sam and (defenseman Brian Dumoulin) did a great job out there clearing some space.”
The Penguins’ top line did a great job as well in providing the Penguins’ offense in regulation. After Colorado forward Matt Calvert opened the scoring at 3 minutes, 16 seconds into regulation, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby responded at 17:22 of the first with his own brilliant rush on net.
Chipping a puck off the offensive left wall past Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, Crosby displayed his forehand against Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard then deked the puck to his backhand, spinning Girard into orbit, Driving to the right of the crease, Crosby was able to tuck a backhanded shot past Grubauer’s left skate.
The Penguins took a 2-1 lead at 15:30 of the second when forward Jake Guentzel, off a feed by Crosby, veered by Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves in the right circle, went backhand to forehand and tucked a slick wrister behind Grubauer’s glove on the near side.
The NHL’s other superstar from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon tied the score at 2:56 of the third when he stole a puck from Dumoulin and buried a wrister past goaltender Matt Murray’s glove hand.
Linesman Michel Cormier left the game at 1:59 of the second period when he tripped and slammed his head into the boards in front of the Penguins’ bench. After leaving the ice with assistance, Cormier was held out for the remainder of the contest for precautionary reasons according to an NHL spokesperson.
The Penguins defeated an Avalanche squad that was the NHL’s final undefeated team, despite a lineup so depleted, defenseman Juuso Riikola was deployed as the fourth-line left winger because of forward Jared McCann being sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
The result partly was due to Tanev’s self-assurance.
“He played a hell of a game,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “His speed is, I think, so evident out there. … He’s physical, he’s hard to play against, he gets under our opponent’s skin. He’s just a good player and he relishes that role.
“His whole game was terrific tonight.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .