Preseason games are not the Stanley Cup. It’s not even a regular season game against a non-conference opponent. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ NHL regulars were burned for two goals in the first period, but regained energy later when Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Zucker breathed life into the game. Drew O’Connor scored twice, but defensive errors plagued the Penguins.
The Penguins tied the game in the last minute when Kapanen landed a rebound that first hit two players in front. After an extended shootout, the Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabers 5-4 in a shootout at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night.
The game may have been the last best chance for PO Joseph, Juuso Riikola, Mark Friedman and Radim Zohorna to make a good impression.
There were highlights for many. There was no knockout, although O’Connor continued to work his way through the NHL roster with a pair of goals. One was an example of a kid whose loan, the other was a classic sweet serve, but they both count.
The Penguins’ first goal awarded was a clown-car effort in which three players lost their man or the battle. Almost six minutes into the game, defenseman Marcus Pettersson was swallowed up by the Sabers’ forward failure and returned the puck up the wall. Anthony Angello failed to get him out of the zone. Filip Hallander was slow in the transition.
Hallander’s man of the house, Brett Murray, has overtaken Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith.
Later in the first period, Vinnie Hinostroza received a free kick near the crease when the Penguins played hot potato with the puck after a faceoff in the defensive zone.
Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin watched Hinostroza crash into the net and blow it up in front of DeSmith. 2-0.
The Penguins probably got some cheering from head coach Mike Sullivan after the first period. Or threats to play Wheeling. The team played a much better second period. The speed differential was noticeable, as was the coordinated effort.
Drew O’Connor has been very good, especially over the past five days. He was good at Buffalo on Friday. He was very good Sunday against Detroit. And he scored a nice goal on Tuesday.
O’Connor got a speed pass out of the defensive zone, leaned on a few Sabers defensemen, dropped the puck for Danton Heinen, picked it up straight into the slot and beat it in front of Dustin Tokarski.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had five high-risk scoring opportunities in the second period and also dominated the overall scoring chances (61.5%).
However, as was the case far too often last season, the PK Penguins dropped an egg at the worst possible time. Towards the end of the second period, the Pittsburgh Penguins PK with Drew O’Connor and Kasper Bjorkqvist at the top, Brian Dumoulin and Mark Friedman at the bottom, simultaneously lost their covers.
Only O’Connor managed to retrieve a man as Dumoulin tripped over DeSmith, which created a rebound. Dumoulin was flat on the ice, O’Connor caught a potential scorer, but Friedman and Bjorkqvist were late at the net, and Victor Olofsson pulled off an easy rebound shot.
Another disappointment from PK spoiled an otherwise superior period. And that’s why Sullivan put a special emphasis on the penalty kill in training camp. Bubble players who stick will likely be able to play shorthanded.
Anders Bjork gave the Sabers a 4-3 lead before Kapanen tied the game. Bjork ripped a shot through Joseph and a screen. Joseph didn’t do enough to get a sight of DeSmith and hampered DeSmith’s ability to see the shot.
The Penguins outscored Buffalo 8-5 in the second period and 11-5 in the third, but PK and Joseph’s defensive error drove the game into a shootout.
Pittsburgh Penguins Bulletin
Marcus Pettersson-Mark Friedman: Ouch
Pettersson was slow to a few pucks, and it cost the Pittsburgh Penguins one goal almost another. I don’t rate it very well on Tuesday. It’s hard to blame Mark Friedman on anything. Maybe the video will show Friedman either didn’t get into position fast enough or didn’t give Pettersson enough target, but it looked like Friedman was doing great, and in fact, sometimes strong.
Friedman did not have the smooth experience Chad Ruhwedel had on Sunday.
OP Joseph-Juuso Riikola: B-
Riikola made a mistake that ended in a two-on-one, but he was pretty solid on the right side. It’s not his favorite position, but he moved the puck well on his backhand and kept his game simple. It pinched and crashed in a proper manner.
Joseph was still a little conservative. He threw Casey DeSmith on Buffalo’s fourth goal. It was a rookie mistake. We know Joseph can play in the NHL if need be, but he didn’t have the preseason guy who screamed “NOW!” “
Radim Zohorna: C +
It’s not a bad C +. It’s a didn’t do much, C +. He scored the Penguins’ third goal because he ran around the ice with Kasperi Kapanen after Penguins defensemen and Jason Zucker crossed the blue line.
Zohorna was… very good. There were a few moments when he stood out. A specific forward failure displayed his speed, and he went from the blue line to the goal line in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
I’m torn about his long-term prognosis; will he play center or wing? The Penguins aim for the stars by keeping it in the middle. I suspect he will become a pretty good mid-six winger.
Drew O’Connor: B +
It wasn’t his best game, but it was a good one. Two goals speak loudly too,
In his rush, which ended in the first goal, he reminded me a lot of a former No.10 who is now the GM of the Seattle Kraken. Its 6-foot-3 frame managed to pull up the ice, but perhaps not so gracefully. He played back and forth well and finished the play. The visor on his nose completed Ron Francis’ costume.
O’Connor in line with Zach Aston-Reese? In Judy Tenuta’s words (look), “Hey, that could happen.”
Kasperi Kapanen: A +
He’s not in the bubble, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed his effort and his full play in the preseason. His backcheck was fierce. When he’s on the ice, things happen.
Kasper Bkorkqvist: to improve
He was more difficult to face in the second half of the game. He’s still not NHL caliber, and it’s pretty easy to follow. However, he was tough on the wall later on.
I’m not a big believer yet, but he could be the firecracker the Penguins need. Could. His skating needs to improve a bit and he needs to be a lot more consistent.
Filip Hallander: All lessons are incomplete
Brett Murray defeated Hallander for the Sabers’ first goal. He was imperceptible for the rest of the game. He got an assist on O’Connor’s second goal, but it wasn’t a well-deserved goal or point.
At one point, I asked a colleague if he was still there.
He was doing well after being hit by a puck in the third period.
“He’s a big boy, he can take it,” Kris Letang joked.