Penguins Good, Avalanche Just a Bit Better; Penguins Short 3-2

The Pittsburgh Penguins (41-19-10) were good on Saturday. They earned scoring chances, skated with energy and maintained their system but they faced the best team in the NHL. The Colorado Avalanche were just a little better and finished one more scoring chance as they beat the Penguins 3-2 at Ball Arena on Saturday.

It was a good accounting but a Penguins loss nonetheless. The Penguins tied the game twice, but Colorado scored less than 30 later each time. Not even a late Penguins’ power play was enough.

Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson scored his 10th goal of the season when he buried a rebound with less than five minutes remaining. However, Colorado defenseman Devan Toews (13) returned the favor 27 seconds later when he was the recipient of a big bounce off the back wall and a yawning cage.

It stood as the game-winner.

The Penguins and Colorado had not played since Jan. 2020. The pandemic shortened one season and necessitated the division-only schedule while keeping the teams apart and depriving the league of Sidney Crosby vs. Nathan MacKinnon, both Nova Scotia natives, and off-season neighbors.

The Penguins had ample scoring chances but not enough shots on the net when opportunity knocked. Rickard Rakell just missed the net with a good look at twine to spare in the first period. In the second period, Jake Guentzel deked Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper, then could not put the puck in the net as his backhand went wide. Even Crosby missed the net from 15 feet in the final seconds of the second period.

The Penguins outchanced Colorado, 30-26 according to NaturalStatTrick.com, and high-danger chances were even (12-12).

The teams finally lit the lamp midway through the second period after a full-speed, scoreless first.

After an Evgeni Malkin turnover, Colorado got a little bit of good luck. Goalie Tristan Jarry didn’t catch Andre Burakovsky’s long-range shot cleanly. Mikko Rantanen (35) swatted the rebound out of the air.

The Colorado Avalanche were 36-2-4 when scoring first. Now 37-2-4.

The Penguins responded well and stacked scoring chances. However, they couldn’t find the net until later in the second period when Kuemper served a pizza in the slot. Crosby (26) whacked it past the goalie.

However, the Penguins enjoyed their tie for a total of 22 seconds.

Nico Sturm chipped the puck ahead for Alex Newhook, who fumbled it in the offensive zone. Newhook tapped the puck backward to a rushing Nicolas Aube-Kubel (8), who blasted a slapshot past Jarry.

Colorado received no pity despite missing their leading scorer and pot stir Nazem Kadri, who was injured Thursday against the San Jose Sharks. Colorado was also missing captain Gabriel Landeskog due to knee surgery and defensemen Bo Byram and Sam Girard.

The Penguins were missing Jason Zucker, who is still being evaluated after a scary crash into the boards on Thursday in Minnesota.

The teams put on something of a clinic in the first period. Neither had a clear advantage in the full-speed, but no space first period. Evan Rodrigues had a breakaway, and MacKinnon streaked past the Penguins defensemen on a three-on-two but didn’t get a clean pass.

After a late period push, the Pittsburgh Penguins outshot Colorado 17-11. Kris Letang led all players with four shots. Overall, Bryan Rust led all players with seven shots.

Overall, the Penguins outshot Colorado 40-38, indicative of the high-event game that was thrilling to watch.

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