Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks at PPG Paints Arena.
* The first period was a wide-open affair and a tale of two tapes. Both teams entered tonight's game under different circumstances, with the Penguins having three days without a game and the Canucks playing last night in Philadelphia, a 5-2 win over the Flyers. The Penguins looked like they were trying to get their game legs back early, as Vancouver jumped out to a 12-3 shot advantage. The Pens bounced back as the opening frame ended with both teams at 18 shots a piece.
* Similar to when the last time these two teams met on Nov. 4, Brock Boeser was the difference in this one. Boeser capitalized on a turnover in the neutral zone, and placed a perfect shot over Matt Murray's shoulder to put the Canucks up 1-0 just four minutes into the game.
Boeser tallied again in the second period, this time on the power play, unleashing a one-timer from the top of the right circle that found the twine on the far side, evading a screened Murray. With his two-goal output tonight, the dynamic winger out of North Dakota now has 11 goals in 19 games this season, with five of them coming against Pittsburgh spanned over two contests.
* Jake Guentzel had a strong game as the 23-year-old forward is really starting to heat up with four goals in his past five games, including two tonight on the power play. Operating on the first power-play unit with the absence of injured Evgeni Malkin, Guentzel really made the most of it. His first period goal truly showed off his skating ability. On the power play, Guentzel burst up the ice and corralled a perfectly timed pass from Phil Kessel as he entered the offensive zone, blowing by the Canucks defense. Guentzel ripped a shot from the slot that goalie Anders Nilsson saved, but Guentzel had the smarts to stop at the net and push the second chance opportunity past the Swedish netminder. Guentzel now has points in all four career games against the Canucks.
The Penguins power play went 2-for-5 on the night. They generated a lot of high quality chances, and did a great job of breaking into the zone and targeting the middle of the ice. Guentzel's second tally with the man-advantage came off a centering feed from Kessel that deflected off Guentzel's skate in the slot and past Nilsson, cutting the deficit to 4-2 with 18:36 remaining in the final frame.
* Vancouver had three fluke goals that turned out to be too much for the Penguins to overcome. Murray had a strong game despite allowing four goals on 35 shots. He turned aside several high-quality chances in the first period, as well as some good opportunities in the third as the Penguins attempted to claw back into the contest.
On the first weird tally for Vancouver, Kessel was skating back into the defensive zone when he lost possession of the puck to a broken stick laying on the ice behind him. Thomas Vanek picked up the puck and came in on Murray, who patiently turned aside his initial shot. The Penguins were discombobulated in their own end due to the turnover, and Loui Eriksson made them pay with the follow up chance. The Penguins suffered from bad puck luck again in the second period on a shot off the stick of former Penguin Derrick Pouliot. The defenseman took a shot that deflected off Brian Dumoulin's skate in front as he was clearing the crease and bounced past Murray. The second power-play score for Vancouver, by Boeser, was deflected off of Crosby's stick.
*The Penguins made a strong push to come back in the game in the third period that was kickstarted by Guentzel's early power-play goal. The Pens were more physical, punishing the Canucks in their own zone, and generating a lot of chances because of it. The Penguins outhit Vancouver 36-13 over the course of the game and had three power plays in the third period, but Nilsson came up large on numerous occasions, finishing with 43 saves on 45 shots to help Vancouver hold on.