-Christian Ehrhoff was given medical clearance to resume playing but he will not play in tonight's game. Mike Johnston said he wants to see Ehrhoff go through a full practice which will likely happen Friday. Johnston said he expects Ehrhoff to play against the Bruins Saturday.
-Where Ehrhoff fits in is a big mystery. He mixed in on the third defensive pairing with Ian Cole and Rob Scuderi at today's morning skate. We would bet on Cole being the odd-man out assuming all seven defensemen are healthy. The coaching staff is very pleased with how Ben Lovejoy and Derrick Pouliot have meshed. And Scuderi has been so valuable on the penalty kill. Cole has been more than adequate on the the third pairing with Scuderi. Suggesting he should be a healthy scratch in favor of Ehrhoff isn't an indictment. It's just math.
-Speaking of Lovejoy, he was a popular man with the media this morning. Always a chatterbox during his first stint with the Penguins, his scrum was nearly as big as Sidney Crosby's. Lovejoy is just a pleasant human being. He could probably be airlifted into Somalia and make friends. There aren't many players who ask reporters about their families or their own lives. Ben Lovejoy is one of them.
-Lovejoy joked (somewhat) this morning that he needed to use a GPS to get around Pittsburgh. He was rusty after spending three years in Southern California.
-The Oilers were a pretty loose group this morning. Consider their season was all but done by New Year's Day, they don't have anything to lose. They're just playing for their individual jobs. There has to be a pretty big sense of relief for a team like this after the trade deadline. After that point, the players all know they're going to to be in place for the time being and a lot of the tension is relieved. The Oilers had the feel of a bunch of friends in a rec league this morning.
-Rob Klinkhammer talked to a few reporters. Despite only being a member of the Penguins for a month, he grew a bit of a following with reporters here by simply being a pretty mellow, approachable guy. He talked about finally having a little stability in his life after making a few moves around North America this season. A native of Lethbridge, Alberta, he's "home" in Edmonton and has some security with the Oilers who signed him to a one-year contract extension last month. The only thing he is missing is his truck. He last saw it in Arizona when he was with the Coyotes and lost track of it after being traded to the Penguins in Decemember. When asked where is, he just sort of shrugged his shoulders, grinned and snorted, "No clue."
-Some sights. The ice:
-Fans entering the barn:
-Evgeni Malkin Russia:
-There are a few Oilers fans on hand. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall:
-We just need to find a Jan Hrdina fan.
-The Whalers/Hurricanes franchise is represented here tonight. Ron Francis Whalers:
-And a rare Gary Roberts Hurricanes:
-With the Raleigh Arena Inaugural Season patch:
-Chris Kunitz Team Canada:
-Jersey of the Night: Even with a slight jersey foul, we have to go with Penguins/Oilers great Paul Coffey:
-The Penguins' starters are Blake Comeau, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Ben Lovejoy, Derrick Pouliot and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Craig Adams and Christian Ehrhoff.
-The Oilers' starters are Teddy Purcell, Derek Roy, Nail Yakupov, Mark Fayne, Martin Marincin and Ben Scrivens.
-Their scratches are Luke Gazdic and Iiro Pakarinen.
-Jeff Jimerson handles the national anthems:
19:15: Sidney Crosby motors up the right wing and snaps off a wrister which is deflected over the cage by the stick of Nugent-Hopkins.
18:52: A deflected puck slides to David Perron at the top of the left circle. He leans down and chops a one-timer which deflects out of play.
18:29: Sutter chips a puck up the left wing boards by Marincin and recovers it on the half wall. He attacks the net and lifts a wrister which Scrivens fights off.
18:15: Taking a pass in the high slot, Sutter snap off a wrister which Scrivens fends off.
17:21: Andrew Ference lifts a wrister from the right point. Scuderi blocks it.
16:54: Off a neutral zone turnover by the Oilers, Lapierre hustles up the left wing and chops a slapper which Scrivens fends off.
16:39: Spaling is called for interference. He sort of picked Derek Roy at the Oilers' blue line while Lapierre pushed a puck up the right wing boards. Crosby, Lapierre, Letang and Scuderi take the ice.
15:44: Brandon Sutter breaks out. Stealing a puck off Justin Schultz at the Penguins' left point, he backhand chips it to the neutral zone and is off to the race. he recovers the puck above the Oilers' right circle, attacks the net and lifts backhander by the blocker of a sprawling Scrivens. It's a really pretty goal. You have to wonder why he doesn't do that more often. Somehow, Winnik and Lovejoy get assists. No clue how they figure in on the scoring there. Penguins 1-0.
13:49: Matt Hendricks races up the left wing and backhands a puck into the crease which Fleury kicks out
13:47: Klinkhammer's return to Pittsburgh doesn't get off to a good start as he's nabbed for cross checking Cole to the left of the Penguins' net. That's kind of a ticky-tack penalty. Crosby, Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist and take the ice.
13:37: Crosby plays a puck from the right half wall to Kunitz below the goal line. Kunitz moves the puck behind the net and deals to Malkin moving in off the left circle. Malkin leans down and lifts a wrister which Fayne blocks.
12:52: Letang lofts a wrister from the right point which deflects just wide.
11:51: A wrister by Pouliot from the right circle is blocked by Klefbom. That essentially kills off Klinkhammer's penalty. The Penguins were a little bitter at forcing shots there.
11:06: Off a feed from the left wing, Nugent-Hopkins rips a wrister from the top of the right circle which Fleury fights off.
10:23: Sutter times two. Steve Downie snaps off a fairly innocent wrister from the top of the right circle. Scrivens makes a save with his blocker but allows a pretty brutal rebound to Sutter in the left circle. Sutter beats Fayne to the puck and plunks in the easy rebound. Ugggggleeeee. Downie and Winnik get assists. Penguins 2-0.
8:53: Nugent-Hopkins has a chance in the high slot but a great backcheck by Comeau results in him lifting Nugent-Hopkins' stick and stealing the puck.
7:56: Purcell has a chance in the slot with a one-timer but blasts it wide to the right of the cage.
6:33: Crosby rips a wrister form the right circle. Scrivens says no.
6:24: This is getting ugly early. After a wrister by Letang form the right half wall deflects behind the cage, Crosby recovers it and deals a pass to Perron darting into the right circle. Perron rips an immediate shot through Scrivens' five hole. It's only the second goal in 13 games for Perron. He needed that. Crosby and Hornqvist get assists. Penguins 3-0.
5:39: Kunitz is called for slashing Marincin. Lapierre, Letang, Scuderi and Winnik take the ice.
5:16: A wrister by Matt Fraser from the left point hits a body in front. Winnik clears the rebound down ice.
5:01: Yakupov cranks a one-timer from above the right circle wide to the far side.
3:52: Lovejoy settles a bouncing puck in the Penguins' right corner and backhands it down ice to kill off the rest of Kunitz's penalty essentially.
1:48: Big save. early deals a pass from the right circle to the slot. Pouliot gets behind Letang and attacks the net. Before he can truly shoot, Fleury appears to poke check the puck away.
1:17: Cole whacks a slapper from the right point which Scrivens eats up.
1:05: Cole and Hendricks get into a fith in the Penguins' slot. They mostly wrestle around while throw a bunch of inside rabbit punches. A few connect fairly well. Each slips and falls a few times. Finally, Cole slips and both parties fall. Each player heads down their respective runway.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Oilers 0.
-To quote the great Michel Therrien, that looked like "mens against boys."
-The Oilers are really bad and they looked like it during that period. Their control of the puck was just atrocious. The Penguins feasted on their sloppy puck management and potted three goals.
-Brandon Sutter looked like he drank his orange juice this morning.
-Perron and Crosby looked like they had some real chemistry on the goal they hooked up.
-The Oilers first line has generated a fair amount of scoring chances.
-The Penguins have a 12-5 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins lead in attempted shots, 26-21.
-Sutter leads the game with four shots.
-Yakupov leads the Oilers with two shots.
-The Penguins have a 12-11 lead in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Crosby is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Boyd Gordon is 4 for 7 (57 percent).
-Schultz leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Scuderi leads the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-A reader spotted a simply tragic jersey foul:
19:31: The Penguins get an early power play as Roy is called for tripping Kunitz. Hornqvist, Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Kunitz take the ice.
18:59: Amazing what happens when you shoot on the power play. Letang controls the puck at the left point and slides a cross-ice pass to Crosb in the righ tcircle. Crosby has his stick cocked and unleashes [heck] in the form of a one-timer which blows by the glove hand of Scrivens. Hornqvist had a tremendous screen set up on Scrivens who never saw the puck. The Oilers pull Scrivens and replace him with Richard Bachman. Letang and Malkin get assists. Penguins 4-0.
16:02: The Penguins nearly pile on another. Letang chases down a loose puck on the right wing and whacks it on net. Bachman kicks it out to his right. Kunitz recovers the puck in the left circle and whips it back on net. Bachman scramble to his left and smothers the shot. Letang pokes for a rebound but no dice.
14:35: Yakupov chucks a wrister from the right half wall. Fleury fends it off.
14:26: A one-timer by Klefbom from the right poitn is off the mark.
13:50: Cole snap off a wrister from the center point. Bachman kicks it out.
13:34: Crosby nearly gets another. Rushing the puck up the left wing, he gets a step on Keith Aulie and lift a wrister which Bachman fights off. Crosby follows up on his rebound and lifts it off the left post.
13:14: Eberly get a chance in right to the right to the cage and puts a wrister over the cage.
13:05: In transition, Perron rips a wrister from the left circle. Bachman smothers it.
12:40: Hendricks tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right of the net but Fleury's left skate denies him.
12:20: Fayne rips a wrister from the center point which is denied by Fleury.
12:03: Derrick Pouliot rips a wrister from the left circle which gets blocked wide.
10:46: A wrister by Nugent-Hopkins form the left circle is blocked out of play by Spaling's stick.
10:04: Sutter has a chance at a hat trick and lifts a chance with a backhander in tight wide to the left of the cage.
9:58: Off a feed by Scuderi, Cole hammer a one-timer from the right point which Bachman steers away.
8:42: Schultz whacks a slapper from the right point which hits a body in front. Play is halted as Lovejoy is called for high sticking.
7:52: The Oilers break the goose egg. Nugent-Hopkins rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury makes the initial save but Lander is able to whack the puck loose and sweep it into the cage by Fleury's right skate. Scuderi looked a little late on accounting for Lander there. Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle get assists. Penguins 4-1.
5:50: Crosby get a chance in the left circle but rips a wrister well over the cage.
4:49: The boys are fighting back against the mens. Fayne rips a fairly innocent wrister from the high slot. Fleury makes the save. Nugent-Hopkins crashes in and keeps the puck loose. Eberle is able to clean up the rebound and backhands it by the stick of a sprawling Fleury. The penguins are getting a little sloppy here. Pouliot and Lovejoy didn't look all that great on that play. Nugent-Hopkins and Fayne get assists. Penguins 4-2.
4:08: Purcell has a wrister form the right circle blocked by Scuderi.
3:50: Kunitz leas a three on tow up the left wingn and snaps off a pass to Comeau. The pass is off the mark.
3:39: Purcell weaves his way into the offensive zone and rips a wrister from the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
3:02: Off a feed by Crosby, Perron jabs a little shot from the left circle off the side of the cage.
1:28: Marincin chops a slapper from the left point which Fleury fights off.
1:22: Late penalties for each team. Letang is called for cross checking Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopikin is called for high sticking Letang. We'll see four-on-four play for two minutes.
0:50: Klefbom races up the left wing and lift a wrister wide of the cage.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Oilers 2.
-The Penguins kind of fell into the trap of getting too comfortable with a healthy lead. The Oilers got a little surge from the goalie change and scraped out two goals to make this a tighter game.
-Nugent-Hopkins always seems to give the Penguins trouble.
-The Penguins have a 23-21 lead in shots on on net.
-The Oilers lead in attempted shots, 49-44.
-Scuderi leads the game with 15:11 of ice time.
-Schultz leads the Oilers with 14:47 of ice time.
-The Oilers have a 22-21 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Crosby is 8 for 13 (52 percent).
-Gordon is 10 for 14 (71 percent).
-Schultz leads the game with five blocked shots.
-Scuderi leads the Penguins with three blocked shots.
20:00: There is 38 seconds remaining on the penalties to Nugent-Hopkins and Letang to start the period.
19:22: Letang and Nugent-Hopkin return to the ice.
19:03: Marincin rips a wrister from the left point which gets blocked.
17:57: On an odd-man rush up ice, Perron pushes a puck up the left wing and deals a centering pass to Letang. Instead of shooting, Letang deals the pass back to the left wing to no one in particular and turns over the puck.
16:20: Battling for a puck in the Oilers' right wing corner, Downie hooks up Aulie. That's two minutes. It's a legit call. Scuderi, Sutter, Letang and Winnik take the ice.
16:13: Eberle rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.
15:09: The Oilers strike. Hendricks shoves Martin into the crease and Martin accidentally kicks Fleury's stick out of his hand. As Lovejoy try tries to recover it, Roy is able to snap off a pass from deep on the right wing to Pouliot in the left circle. In the confusion of the stick recovery, Fleury is unable to stop Pouliot's laser from the left circle. Woof. Roy and Klefbom get assists. Penguins 4-3.
13:34: Perron rips a slapper from the left circle which Bachman fights off.
12:28: Fraser tries to take a run at Letang inside the Penguins' blue line but is thumped to the ice for his troubles.
11:49: Nugent-Hopkin races into the left circle and rips a wrister from the left circle which Fleury fights off. After releasing the shot, Nugent-Hopkins was pinned against the boards for four or five seconds by Cole. No call.
10:55: Ference cranks a slapper from above the right circle which Fleury fight off.
9:56: Ooooh geez. Derrick Pouliot fumbles a puck in his own slot and the Penguins pay a price. Yakupov races up the right wing and tries to beat Pouliot one-on-one. Pouliot forces him to turn the puck over for a moment but loses it himself int eh slot. Yakupov is able to recove and rips it from the left circle on net. Fleury makes the save Pouliot tries to clear the rebound but ends up banking it off Roy and into the cage. A brief review confirms the goal. It's a tie game. Yakupov gets the only assists. Oilers 4, Penguins 4.
8:06: A slapper by Lovejoy from the left circle is blocked. Kuntiz and Comeau scrambles for the rebound Malkin claims it, veers around the net and whips a backhander from the right of the net. Bachman eats it up.
6:02: Benpoint ouliot backhands a pass/shot to the slot. Crosby skates the puck out of danger.
5:22: The fourth line to the rescue. Lapierre enters the offensive zone on the left wing and veers to the high slot was Downie drives the slot drawing in Roy as well as Aulie. Lapierre rips a wrister from above the left circle. Bachman kicks it out but can't stop Downie from tucking in the rebound with a forehand shot. It's a clutch goal from a line which hasn't offered much offense this season. Lapierre gets the only assists. Penguins 5-4.
4:16: The Penguins secure the win. Crosby corrals a puck in the left wing corner and the Oilers make the fatal mistake of giving him some space to work with. He is able to snap off a pass to Hornqvist in the right cirlce. Hornqvist rips a one-timer through Bachman to regain a two-goal lead. Crosby gets the only assists. Penguins 6-4.
2:24: With an empty net, Malkin tries to chip a puck from the Penguins' blue line and pursue an empty-net goal. Lander trips him and that's an easy two minutes. Bachman is back in net. With a late lead, a more defensive formation of Sutter, Malkin, Crosby, Pouliot and Letang takes the ice. Also, they want to get Sutter a hat trick.
1:40: Malkin feeds a pass from the right half wall to Sutter in the slot. Sutter snaps off a shot which Bachman eats up.
1:35: A one-timer by Lovejoy from the left point is deflected out of play.
1:24: Lovejoy pounds a one-timer from the left half wall. Bachman fight sit off.
0:51: Off a defnesive zone turnover by Kunitz, Purcell has a wrister from the right circle blocked juuust wide.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 6, Oilers 4.
-Forget any rooting interest you may have. Forgot about being a Penguins fan or betting on the under. Just sit back and appreciate that spectacle. That as a bunch of sloppy, rampant offense. Sure, the goaltending and the defenses weren't particularly sharp. But there were goals. A LOT of goals. After seeing three straight games of sludgy offense on the Penguins' West coast swing, we witnessed an eruption of pucks hitting twine. And it was glorious.
-Look at the NFL. That's the most powerful and popular sports league on earth. And they are constantly trying to find new ways to generate offense. That league is tinkering with something as insignificant as the extra point in order to make things more exciting. The extra point! Meanwhile, the NHL is trying to dumb down and the shootout, one of the few cheap and easy outlets of entertainment for hockey.
-Goals folks. Goals. It's not an overly difficult concept. Goals are the most entertaining part of this sport.
-As far as this particular game goes, this was a scare for the Penguins. They raced out to a big, big lead, got casual with their structure and allowed an inferior but dangerous opponent get back into the game. A late spasm of offense by the Penguins saved their butts in this one. Regardless, they played some horrendous, sloppy defense in this one.
-Mike Johnston will never be confused with John Tortorella in terms of delivering fire-and-brimstone postgame press conferences, but he was about as mad as we've seen him in his young tenure with the Penguins. Check it out for your self:
-He wasn't afraid to call players out by name either. He was critical of Derrick Pouliot and Steve Downie directly.
-The mood in the dressing room was fairly grim as well. They weren't playing funeral dirge by any means, but the players all seemed to recognize they played a lousy game and nearly hurt themselves with regards to the standings.
Sidney Crosby assessed the game:
What happened after the four-goal lead?
"We just got too casual. They're a good team. We just let our foot off the gas, especially against those guys. They're a skilled group. The get a couple on the power play and come at us pretty hard in the second. We were just non-nonchalant in the second."
What can you learn from a game like this?
"I think finding a way to correct it. I think there are times where you could have totally lost your focus. A 4-4 game and all of a sudden you're up in the game, 5-4. We found a way to get that big goal. [Downie] really gave us momentum back with that. I think you just learn based on getting a couple of points and sticking with it. But you have to understand you can't let that happen in a playoff series. That could change the momentum in a series and things like that. You can't let that happen."
Are you able to deal with games like this better mentally?
"Hopefully. We've definitely been on the wrong side of a few of those. I think if there's anything we could take away, we didn't really get rattled at all. As frustrating as that is, you didn't see anyone get rattled or have it effect their game. It was tough there for a pretty long stint but we got back to our game that we needed to and sometimes you get rewarded. But we gave ourselves a chance by staying focused."
-The penalty kill was a big culprit. First, the Penguins gave four power plays to the Oilers. The last one was a killer as Downie hooked up Keith Aulie in the Oilers' left wing corner. It was just an undisciplined penalty to take and Downie has taken a few of those as of late.
-The penalty kill wasn't flat-out awful but it wasn't sharp. The first goal by Anton Lander was simply amatter of Rob Scuderi allowing Lander all day to clean up a rebound. The second goal by Benoit Pouliot was off a confusing play where Marc-Andre Fleury lost his his stick.
-Derrick Pouliot will have much, much, much better days as an NHL player. The sheer laws of probability dictate that. He appeared to be thoroughly rattled tonight. He and partner Ben Lovejoy appeared overwhelmed on a shoot-and-crash sequence which led to a goal by Jordan Eberle. The Poliout single-highhandedly stole a puck off Nail Yakupov then managed to turn that steal into a bank shot off Derek Roy and into his own net.
-If Christian Ehrhoff is indeed available Saturday, Derrick Pouliot may have made Mike Johnston's decision for his lineup very easy.
-Marc-Andre Fleruy wasn't sharp either. He fought the puck a bit tonight and while we can't say any goal he allowed was flat-out "soft", certainly didn't steal any. He hasn't had a game this poor in a long while.
-Let's not dismiss any of the numerous positives in this game. The Penguins got a power-play goal. And they did so by shooting the puck! All it took was Crosby cranking a one-timer form the right circle by a brilliant screen from Patric Hornqvist.
-Brandon Sutter had one of his better games as a Penguin. He started the scoring with a great steal-and-chip play leading to his own short-handed goal. Then he cleaned up an ugly garbage rebound. He seemed to take a step forward in developing some chemistry with Daniel Winnik.
-The fourth line, which has been dormant most of the season, came up with a big play to score the eventual game-winning goal. Maxim Lapierre read a good center drive by Downie and shot a puck which allowed Downie to clean up a rebound. It was a big goal for Downie after he took a penalty which led to the Oilers' fourth goal.
-Ian Cole and Rob Scuderi continued to look steady as a defensive duo.
-David Perron broke out of a goal-scoring slump.
-And Crosby racked up three points.
-Give the Oilers credit. They can score. Even with some injuries, hey have enough offensive weapons left over that they can mount a considerable offensive attack. They may give up a ton of goals, but they score their fair share.
-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is turning into a Penguin Killer. He now has six points (three goals, three assists) in five career games against the Penguins.
-Neither Oilers goaltender - Ben Scrivens or Richard Bachman - looked like they were ready to play.
-Officials called a pretty fair game. They didn't allow many obvious penalties to go. They called most things pretty fairly. We give referees Greg Kimmerly and Dean Morton as well as linesmen Derek Amell and Jean Morin full marks.
-The Penguins led in shots, 34-29.
-The Oilers led in attempted shots, 63-58.
-Sutter led the game with six shots.
-Rob Klinkhammer and Nugent-Hopkins led the game with four shots.
-Kris Letang led the game with 23:45 of ice time.
-Oscar Klefbom led the Oilers with 23:00 of ice time.
-"Klefbom" sounds like a sort of Swedish vulgarity.
-The Penguins had a 32-29 edge in faceoffs, 32-29 (52 percent).
-Crosby was 10 for 16 (63 percent).
-Boyd Gordon was 12 for 18 (67 percent).
-Justin Schultlz led the game with six blocked shots.
-Scuderi, Paul Martin and Letang each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Malkin recorded his 700th career point.
-Crosby now has 70 points on the season, two behind league leader John Tavares of the Islanders.
-Sutter is tied with the Rangers' Rick Nash and the Kings' Tyler Toffoli for the league lead in short-handed goals with four.
-Letang (283 points) moved past Doug Shedden (282 points) for 24th place on the franchise's career scoring list.
-Lovejoy recorded his first point with the Penguins since his return.
-Finally, we'll leave you with this. An EN reader spotted a Janne Laukanen fan: