Monday, October 10, 2011

Pens 1 - Oilers 2 in Shootout

The Pens played a strong third period without the hangover that plagued the final frame in each of their previous two contests, but still couldn't prevent the Oilers from getting the equalizer. The Oilers speed and skill, especially from the Hall-RNH-Hemsky line, finally found a way to solve Brent Johnson in the third. Despite a 5 minute major penalty to Ryan Smyth for his vicious defense of a Chris Kunitz check, the Pens PP couldn't find a way past Dubnyk for the go-ahead goal. The OT frame had action at both ends of the ice, but the teams needed a shootout to decide this one. The shootout, heavily favoring the young talent Edmonton has amassed, went in the Oilers favor as Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky both waited for Johnson to drop down before shooting high glove. Neal countered with a 5-hole shot that stayed on the ice past Dubnyk, but Sullivan couldn't sneak one through the pads to keep the Pens alive.

The Pens had their chances offensively, but clearly lacked finishing touch. Too many missed nets and shots off their mark left the Pens wondering what could have been. James Neal had one of his best games as a Pen, showing great physical presence, awareness, and speed, but still lacks the command of his shots to place them effectively on net (if on net at all). Kris Letang was an absolute monster at both ends of the ice, nullifying a number of good scoring chances (including a brilliant diving poke-check to save a 2-on-1 shorthanded) while carrying the puck through the neutral zone with authority and generating a number of good shots and scoring chances.

All in all, 5 points out of 6 for a tough road swing is not a bad way to start the season. The Pens have a few bumps and bruises to mend, and will surely be anxious to return home for Tuesday night's opener against the Florida Panthers. The Pens have done their job playing the opening act for three straight home openers, it's time they headlined their own.

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