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Penguins/Predators Recap: Zucker’s late goal wins it for Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Penguins v Nashville Predators
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Pens fall behind 1-0, but come back to beat Nashville in regulation


I either didn’t know (or once knew and forgot) that a player actively on the waiver wire could actually dress for a game. Brock McGinn probably wishes he didn’t prove it’s possible, but then again everyone else probably wishes he’s scored a point this calendar year.

The Predators don’t post a lineup card (boo) but for them it’s starting to be about who you don’t see. Mattias Ekholm ain’t here no more, after being traded today ending a stint in Nashville for over a decade. Tanner Jeannot and Nino Niedderreiter are gone too, having being traded last week.

First period

Fairly quiet start early. The Pens allow a breakaway on the first shift, as is becoming all too much of a custom, but Tristan Jarry is ready and stops Mikael Granlund.

Sidney Crosby strikes iron with a slapshot, puck stays out and the Pens’ top line got trapped in their own end after that. While tired, Jake Guentzel took down Roman Josi to award Nashville with the opening power play.

Pittsburgh kills it off, but not before the Preds pound the net with several shots. At one point it’s 14-4 for Nashville, a late flurry by the Pens bring it back to a more respectable 16-9 spot at the end of the period. 5v5 shots are 11-9 in favor of Nashville with the score remaining 0-0.

Second period

First shift of the period is better for the Pens this time around, Guentzel evens up his penalty differential on the night by drawing a tripping call. Pittsburgh’s power play, however, does not display very much power on their first sighting of the night.

The Pens get a second bite at the power play apple when Bryan Rust is interfered with. They beat Juuse Saros but the puck that gets behind him is covered by Ryan McDonagh pushing it back to the goalie.

Period drains away, no goals. Better second for the Pens with all the power play time to get a 17-5 shot edge, and 26-22 overall. But the goalies had all the answers through 40.

Third period

Pittsburgh gets a third power play attempt early but it fails like the first two. Then a ghastly turnover on Kris Letang’s clearing attempt runs right into Mark Jankowski. Jankowski has all the space in the world to put a few dekes and then make a forehand finish on Jarry with 12:59 to go in the game.

Rust then turns the puck over almost as poorly as Letang’s, which didn’t bite the Pens due to Luke Evangelista missing the net on his shot. But Jan Rutta took a penalty in the scramble to milk two more minutes off the clock. Pittsburgh kills it off, and then strikes. McGinn feeds Sidney Crosby for a breakaway, and for the first time in many moons his five-hole shot on a breakaway finds the back of the net. 1-1 game.

Nashville returns the favor with a deep turnover of their own, in no small part to Evgeni Malkin buzzing around and helping to force a quick play of the puck. Unfortunately for the Preds, the puck is played to Jason Zucker and he quickly slings it to net before Saros is set. Pens pull ahead 2-1 with only 1:39 to go.

Nashville pulls Saros quickly for an extra attacker. With 20 ticks left they utilize their timeout for one final push. It doesn’t work. Bryan Rust makes a diving Superman-esque pitch at the puck and it goes into the empty net. Pens win 3-1 final.

Some thoughts

  • With guys getting waived like crazy, and a trade addition likely coming very soon, it was nice to see Drew O’Connor stand out. Like how much he plays with the puck and has found a way recently more and more to use his speed to become more effective out there.
  • The power play got three cracks at it, score 0-0 each time. Way too quiet in all of the chances. Terrible game for that group when situationally the team really needed them to come through. Luckily they found two goals down the stretch at even, otherwise the power play futility would have stood out all the more.
  • The Pens have their dads on the road trip, and that made me think of how tough it must be for Letang after losing his father still only a few weeks ago. Life goes on and he’s a professional and that doesn’t excuse or explain his third period giveaway in the least and nor am I suggesting by any means that it did to be perfectly clear..But I was kinda wondering how this game would play out for him. It wasn’t one of his finest, to say the least.
  • Is Brock McGinn the first player in NHL history to score a point while actively on the waiver wire? Wow. Get your claims in now, other teams! (Think that will work?)
  • Jokes aside, good on McGinn for showing up and putting in the same effort. He obviously knows things aren’t going well, and his whole NHL career is at least temporarily in a weird state of limbo. But he still did his job and came through when the opportunity presented itself. If nothing else that says a lot positive about his personal character in handling what could be the low point of his professional career.
  • Jankowski is another player in limbo. He’s been waived and cleared this season. If not for Nashville trading away players recently and also having some injuries (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg), it’s very likely Jankowski wouldn’t even have been in the lineup at all tonight. But he was, and he got a goal. That’s a nice story of perseverance.
  • In our nightly “use a cool stat from the legend Bob Grove” feature: Pens improve to 5-4-1 this season when playing a third game in four nights, and that’s 2-1-1 on the road. That’s a big chunk of the season on short rest, and it’s not even a condensed season. It’s a lot easier to say “wish that was better” when not having to schedule 32 geographically diverse teams in a very specific manner, but gee you wish that was better.
  • If you believe in a “there are no coincidences, only signs of alignment” type of karmic philosophy (bet you didn’t know you were getting THAT in the recap, eh?) the end of this game must have been even more satisfying. Patric Hornqvist, emotional leader of the Pens, scored a pretty big game-winning goal with 95 seconds left in a tied game in the third period in Nashville from down low one hot June night a few years back....It wasn’t quite as meaningful given the circumstance, but tonight in a tied game late in the third period of Nashville, the Pens current emotional leader, Jason Zucker, scored a game-winning goal from down low with 99 seconds left for Pittsburgh. Gotta love it when it all goes full circle like that.

Suddenly, the Pens are riding a three-game winning streak and take their merry band of fathers down to Florida...Assuming they all survive Broadway.

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