ShareThis Page
Penguins win in Anaheim without leaning on goalie Matt Murray |

Penguins win in Anaheim without leaning on goalie Matt Murray

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, January 12, 2019 8:00 a.m
The Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate after a goal by left wing Tanner Pearson past Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, right, and Jakob Silfverberg, left, during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. The Penguins won 7-4.

While the Pittsburgh Penguins were ripping off eight straight wins through late December and early January, they were aided and abetted by a red-hot goaltender.

It was easy to wonder what those results would have looked like if Matt Murray hadn’t been playing out of his mind.

Well, there’s a good chance they would have looked a lot like Friday night’s game in Anaheim.

Murray turned in an ordinary performance, especially as the Penguins fell behind 3-0 in the first period.

He committed no cardinal goaltending sins, but when an Ondrej Kase centering pass hit Nick Ritchie’s stick in front, it didn’t clang off the post or bank into the corner. It found the back of the net. When a second-period turnover by Evgeni Malkin led to a Jakob Silfverberg breakaway, Murray didn’t make a ridiculous, acrobatic save. The shot slipped inside the right post.

As it turned out, none of that mattered.

Jake Guentzel had a hat trick and Tanner Pearson scored twice. Malkin had a four-point night and Phil Kessel recorded three points. Sidney Crosby’s line was thoroughly dominant. The Penguins scored the last four goals of the game and cruised to a 7-4 victory to improve to 15-3-1 since Dec. 4.

During that stretch, the Penguins have scored at least five goals in a game eight times.

Good goaltending, bad goaltending, anything in between – it hardly matters what’s going on in net when a team is scoring at that pace.

Here are three other things we learned from Friday night’s Penguins victory.

1. Deep enough

For most of the first two periods, it looked like injuries to Hornqvist, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, and Zach Aston-Reese, who is out long term with a hand injury, were taking their toll on the Penguins.

On paper, going from Hornqvist to Pearson on the second line was a downgrade. So was going from Pearson to Riley Sheahan in the left-wing spot on the third line.

In the third period, though, concerns about forward depth vanished.

Malkin set up Pearson at the left post for a shot that tied the score 4-4 with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game. Kessel stole a puck from Jacob Larsson and gave the Penguins the lead for good less than a minute later.

The Penguins haven’t found perfect line combinations for Malkin and Kessel yet this season, but when the two superstars are creating chances at peak level, there’s a lot of margin for error when choosing who they should play alongside.

2. Surviving the shorties

Malkin’s turnover in the second period led to the ninth shorthanded goal allowed by the Penguins this season. That’s tied with Boston and Florida for the most in the league.

Somehow, though, it hasn’t burned the Penguins lately.

They’ve given up a shorthanded goal in five of the 21 games they’ve played since Nov. 27. They managed to win four of those five games.

3. Balance of trade

In general, the Dec. 3 swap of Daniel Sprong for Marcus Pettersson has been a deal that has benefitted both teams. That balance didn’t shift much Friday night.

Sprong had a tremendous first period, scoring the goal that gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead and making an impressive backcheck to rob Matt Cullen of a scoring chance. He was quiet the rest of the night.

Pettersson was on the ice for Ritchie’s goal in the first two minutes of the game. After that, he was a plus-2, hitting the crossbar with a second-period shot and assisting on one of Pearson’s third-period goals.

All in all, it was probably a wash.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.