The Penguins played solid hockey for the first 40 minutes of Saturday’s matchup with Vegas, building a 2-0 lead going into the final frame.
But the defending Stanley Cup champions orchestrated a comeback in the last 20 minutes, coming away with a 3-2 win at T-Mobile Arena.
“We seemed to have everything in a good spot. Just can’t make the mistakes that we made and expect to win games,” Sidney Crosby said. “We just didn’t hold onto pucks. We couldn’t get enough offensive zone time. They were gonna push, we knew that, but I think we made it easier on them than we needed to.”
Ryan Graves and Jake Guentzel scored for Pittsburgh, while Tristan Jarry made 26 saves.
The Penguins had some jump in a scoreless opening frame in their return to game action following a three-day break, coming away with two big penalty kills while generating a handful of good looks on Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson.
Pittsburgh struck first in the the second period, with Graves making a nice play to get his third goal of the season. The big blueliner carried the puck down low, and instead of going for the wraparound, he banked the puck off Thompson from below the goal line, surprising the netminder.
Guentzel followed that up a few minutes later with his 20th goal of the season. He hit that plateau for the seventh-consecutive season, tying teammate Evgeni Malkin (2013-20) for the fourth-longest such run in franchise history.
Guentzel is also just the seventh player in Penguins history to record at least seven 20-goal seasons, behind Sidney Crosby, Malkin, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Rick Kehoe and Jean Pronovost.
But the Golden Knights wouldn’t go down without a fight. Their comeback bid started 5:18 into the third period, when Jonathan Marchessault got his 20th goal of the year, banking in a rebound from the top of the crease.
Pavel Dorofeyev followed that up at the 6:52 mark, and 39 seconds later, the Golden Knights had a chance to build on their momentum with another power play. The Penguins put forth a strong effort, as Jarry came up with some big saves and the guys in front of them sacrificed their bodies on shot blocks.
But shortly after going back to full strength, Brendan Brisson – the son of Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson – scored his first NHL goal to put Vegas in front, a lead they would not relinquish. Here’s what Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan had to say after the game.
Last game (a 3-0 win over Seattle on Tuesday) you had a 2-0 lead going into the third and handled it very well. What was the difference tonight? “I think the difference was just attention to detail and structure. We didn’t defend hard enough. All three of the goals were seemingly nothing plays that ended up in the back of our net. We had numbers back. We gotta defend harder, and we’ve got to have some predictability in how we defend, and we didn’t have it.”
Can you identify a reason why you didn’t have it? “No.”
How did you think Tristan performed? It seemed like he was pretty good in the second period, but obviously they come back in the third. “I thought he made some big saves in the second.”
What were your thoughts on your performance in the first two periods? “I thought we were fine. I thought we were playing hard, I thought we were trying to establish the game we were trying to play. Give Vegas credit. They played with a lot of structure. I don’t think there were a ton of high quality looks on either side. Obviously, we have a 2-0 lead going into the third period. We’d like to have a strong third period and finish the game off the right way, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
What did you think of Colin White’s game? “I thought he played real well. I thought he was good on the penalty kill. I thought he made good decisions with the puck. He was a great screen on Jake’s goal, when we put him on the right side with Sid and Jake. I thought he had a strong game.”