Pittsburgh was perfect on the power play and St. Louis couldn’t solve goaltender Matt Murray in a lopsided loss at Enterprise Center.
- Penguins: (19-12-6)
- Blues: (15-16-4)
The only change to the lineup for St. Louis was the return of their captain, Alex Pietrangelo. He missed the previous 11 games with a hand injury but was cleared to play in this one. Chris Butler took a seat in the press box in light of Pietrangelo’s return. Robby Fabbri returned from the IR after separating his shoulder in a Dec 1st game in Arizona but was a healthy scratch tonight. The Blues sent Zach Sanford back down to San Antonio to make room for Fabbri on the roster.
Pittsburgh – Matt Murray: (8-5-1, 3.30 GAA, .902 SP)
St. Louis – Jake Allen: (13-10-4, 3.01 GAA, .903 SP)
St. Louis: David Perron (13)
#1 – Sidney Crosby
#2 – Kris Letang
#3 – Phil Kessel
Alexander Steen was called for high-sticking on the opening faceoff against Bryan Rust, putting the Blues on the defensive just 9 seconds into the game. 39 seconds later Sidney Crosby scored with one skate beneath the goal line from a near-impossible angle. But when you’re talking about the talent of Crosby, the words “near impossible” are not totally relevant.
St. Louis held their own throughout the first period and didn’t seem to let the one-goal deficit defeat them. They were outshot in the period 12-8 but had a couple of good chances.
Joel Edmundson rang one off the pipe with a slap-shot just inside the blue line 6 minutes into the period. Jaden Schwartz had an open net but was robbed by Murray on a power play late in the period. Despite the opportunities, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The 2nd period started much the same way as the first. Steen got tangled up with Dominik Simon and was deemed to have interfered with him. Once again, Pittsburgh took advantage on the power play for a 2-0 lead. This time it was Juuso Riikola’s first NHL goal that beat Jake Allen under his left arm.
In the game, the Penguins capitalized on all 4 of their power plays. They are scoring on about 25% of their man-advantages on the season, good for 6th in the league. But tonight they were perfect.
Two more goals by Pittsburgh made it 4-0 halfway through the game. Someone finally showed some grit after the 4th Pittsburgh goal when Edmundson took exception to the presence of Aston-Reese in the slot after the goal. The two squared off in a fight that lacked any big punches, but at least someone from the Blues showed they cared.
Allen was pulled after the 4th goal and Jordan Binnington was charged with tending the net for the rest of the game.
Blues fans didn’t have much to cheer about until David Perron got the Blues on the scoreboard with his 13th goal of the season on a nice rebound wrist shot that got past Murray. Ryan O’Reilly and Steen assisted on the goal. Otherwise, Murray stopped everything else the Blues threw at him.
The Blues continued to battle but it just wasn’t their night. Pittsburgh added two more goals in the first 4 minutes of the third period to put the game out of reach.
This game wasn’t as bad as the score would indicate. Pittsburgh capitalized on all 4 power plays, St. Louis was 0 for 2 on theirs.
Jake Allen has played well lately, but has also been shouldering a large load of games and had a tough game tonight. It’s going to happen occasionally.
On the other side of things, Murray was outstanding. Comparing their numbers on the season, Jake’s are actually slightly better. But tonight it was Murray’s night.
Pittsburgh is one year removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. They also have arguably the best player in the game right now in Sidney Crosby and a pretty awesome one-two punch with Crosby and Malkin. They were the hotter team coming into the game having won their last 4 games and the last 6 of 7.
Statistically, the game was pretty even with the exception of a couple of glaring differences. I already mentioned the power play. The other was 23 blocked shots by Pittsburgh compared to just 5 by the Blues.
The biggest difference in the way the two teams played this game was that Pittsburgh got down in the dirty areas around the goal and generated offense from it. St. Louis took too many shots where there wasn’t an open lane to the net. Too many shots got blocked.
Too many shots were taken when there wasn’t anyone in a position to get a rebound. Pat Maroon was in the dirty area several times but couldn’t find a way to finish past Murray. But, he can’t be on the ice every shift. Some other guys need to get to the net.
Fabbri’s coming back. Who’s gonna sit next? I think it’s time for Steen to watch from the press box.