PHILADELPHIA — After a first period where they were outshot 11-4 but held a 1-0 lead, the Pittsburgh Penguins used the middle period to really separate themselves in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Penguins would capitalize on two power play goals in the second period with Derick Brassard netting his first of the playoffs 2:48 in to make it 2-0. Four minutes later, with Pittsburgh on a 4-on-3 power play, Kris Letang set up Evgeni Malkin for a one-timer, which resulted in goal number three on the afternoon.
As Flyers fans inside Wells Fargo Center were coming to grips with the three-goal deficit, the ensuing face-off following the Malkin goal quickly led to another Penguins scoring chance, with Sidney Crosby winning the draw and then finding Brian Dumoulin to make it 4-0.
According to the NHL, Pittsburgh’s two goals in five seconds matches a playoff record for two goals by one team. The feat did make Penguins franchise history in beating the previous playoff record of seven seconds set by Ron Stackhouse and Rick Kehoe in 1980.
Two goals in five seconds and a 4-1 lead after the second period is certainly a good way to respond to their ineffectiveness offensively on Friday night. The Penguins would hang on and take Game 3, 5-1, for a 2-1 series lead.
“It was big,” said Letang afterward, “I think our [special teams] were the reason we lost in Game 2. I think tonight they answered really well and those two goals were big for us.”
When Derick Brassard hits the ice for his first shift Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, he’ll be involved in his 10th game as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since coming over from the Ottawa Senators in that wild three-team deal just before the NHL trade deadline last month, the 30-year-old center has a goal and four points.
Any player who goes from a lottery team to a contender around the trade deadline has pressure on them. Their new team gave up assets in hopes that they were either the last piece of a championship puzzle or someone who can fill a role and strengthen an area. In Brassard’s case, he was brought over to take over third-line center duties behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins had options, like Riley Sheahan, but were looking for an upgrade in order to bolster their bottom six.
Luckily for Brassard, he joined a team that’s won the last two Stanley Cups and has a locker room full of stars who have mantles full of various accomplishments. The Penguins are lined up for another Cup run, and these last few weeks have given him an opportunity to blend into a lineup that’s looking for a three-peat.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
“I know it’s going to take a little time. I feel like I have a lot more to give. It’s a process,” Brassard said last week after a morning skate at Madison Square Garden. “I’m going to take some time here and try and make sure I’m going into the playoffs with my ‘A’ game.”
Brassard admitted he’s still not at a full comfort level since the trade, but that will take time. He’s been playing mostly with Phil Kessel on one of his wings as Bryan Rust, Riley Sheahan and Conor Sheary have seen time on the other side at even strength. That’s the good fortune that head coach Mike Sullivan has — he has that option to mix and match players given the lineup he’s working with.
Brassard knows his role behind Crosby and Malkin, and that’s alleviated any pressure of trying to do too much when it’s time to hop over the boards.
“For me, playing behind those two guys I don’t try to put any pressure on myself,” he said. “I just try to be myself. This group proved that the last two years. I’m not here to be a savior. I’m just going to try and play my game and be myself.”
While on the ice he’s still finding his way, in the dressing room it’s been a smooth transition with plenty of familiarity.
• He was teammates with Carl Hagelin and Matt Hunwick with the New York Rangers, who also employed Sullivan as an assistant while Brassard was there.
• He played against Sidney Crosby in junior hockey.
• In each of the last four postseasons, his previous two teams — the Rangers and Senators — have met the Penguins and gone 2-2 against them .
Having been eliminated by the eventual champions the last two seasons, Brassard is hoping for a different ending this time around.
“It’s nice to be on this side,” he said. “It’s a really good team and I have a chance to do something special.”
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets: Hellebuyck’s sixth shutout of the season — a 34-save effort in a 4-0 win against the St. Louis Blues — set a new franchise record. He’s now just two wins away from tying the team’s franchise record for wins by a goalie at 32.
Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild: Staal and Granlund basically had their way with the New York Rangers in a 4-1 win. They each scored twice and also assisted twice on each other’s goals. Feasting on the Rangers is pretty easy these days, but it was an impressive night for the duo nonetheless.
William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights: Goals No. 32 and No. 33 tonight, including quite the rip on his second one. Added an assist as well in a 6-3 win for the Golden Knights over the Vancouver Canucks. What a player he’s turned into.
Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins: Kessel has two goals and an assist and Malkin and Guentzel each had a goal and two assists. The Penguins are already scary on offense, and they just added Derick Brassard on Friday. Three-peat, anyone?
Connor Hellebuyck notched his 6th shutout of 2017-18 Friday, continuing not only the best goalie season in Jets/Thrashers history but perhaps the best in Winnipeg NHL history too pic.twitter.com/hKbJI91EW2
If Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee is to be believed, getting forward Ryan Reaves and a draft pick while not having to give up anything but some cap space was the meal ticket.
McPhee, who spoke to the media in Las Vegas during the first intermission of their game against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, said they added grit to their lineup with Reaves after the Golden Knights were one of three teams involved in a wild trade that ultimately sent Derick Brassard from Ottawa to Pittsburgh.
Reaves, McPhee said, is a tough guy who can do more than just dole out physical punishment.
“Ryan is a big strong guy that brings some grit, some strong depth to our hockey club,” McPhee said. “He’s a unique player. These players, tough guys in this league, many of them have been rendered obsolete because they can’t play. (Reaves) can play.
The deal was convoluted, McPhee admitted, saying that it’s something that happens with three teams involved. He said it took four transactions to make it work.
“We gave up some cap space, we have a lot of cap space and a minor league player to do this, so we picked up two assets,” McPhee said. “I thought it was a good deal for our club.”
McPhee said he spoke with Pittsburgh a couple days ago, and the deal for Reaves came together quite quickly. He said the issues with the deal were more on the side of Ottawa and Pittsburgh and once those were worked out, the deal was made.
McPhee said he doesn’t necessarily believe the club needs to make moves.
“But if there are opportunities to make the club a little bit better, one percent, two percent, three percent, you do it if it’s not going to affect chemistry,” he said.
This may only be part of the story here for the Golden Knights.
Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported that Vegas may have got involved in the deal to block the Winnipeg Jets from getting Brassard.
So my question…why would Vegas take money on Brassard and help Pittsburgh? It appears otherwise, Brassard was heading to a western team, VGK got involved to keep him in the east. As I was told “Better to face him in round 4 than 2.”
Even though the Jets and Golden Knights wouldn’t meet until the third round of the playoffs — a lot would have to go right for that to happen — Vegas essentially made sure that if the scenario ever came to fruition, they wouldn’t have to deal with Brassard in the series.
If true, that’s some next level stuff by McPhee and Co.
McPhee played down those reports in his presser, saying it wasn’t a “material” part of the deal.
“We saw an opportunity to pick up Ryan Reaves and a draft pick in what was a simple transaction for us,” he said.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the Jets were disappointed not to land Brassard after going “hard” after him. The move would have solidified Winnipeg’s spine, with Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Brassard and Adam Lowry down the middle. Winnipeg’s already a scary team without Brassard’s services. The fear factor would only have improved with him.
The Jets, reportedly, offered three pieces for Brassard, in what was a “solid” package. Given what Pittsburgh sent Ottawa’s way, that likely means a first-round pick, a roster player and a high-level prospect.
The Jets are now forced to look elsewhere, and perhaps they have the league’s newest team to blame for it.
A Jets-Golden Knights series would have a little more on the line if it comes to be this spring.
There likely won’t be a more wild trade before the deadline than the one that took the better part of Friday to finally be completed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had Ottawa Senators forward Derick Brassard in their grasp, then lost him, and then snatched him up again.
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole was headed to a bad team, then he wasn’t, and then he was again.
And somehow Ryan Reaves is now with the Vegas Golden Knights and the NHL’s newest team is retaining a bunch of salary.
The first trade: Penguins receive Derick Brassard; Senators get a first-round pick, Ian Cole and intriguing goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson.
This deal was rejected by the NHL for “improper use of salary retention,” so it was back to the drawing board for all involved.
The second (and actual) trade: Penguins receive Derick Brassard; Senators get a first-round pick, Ian Cole and intriguing goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson. This didn’t change.
Penguins also acquire a 2018 third round draft pick and prospect forward Vincent Dunn from the Senators; and they also get prospect forward Tobias Lindberg from the Golden Knights.
Vegas receives Ryan Reaves and a 2018 fourth-rounder (Vancouver’s) from the Penguins and also retains 40 percent of Brassard’s salary.
Why the Penguins made the trade: It’s been no secret that the Penguins have been looking for center help since losing Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino. Brassard fits that bill, and honestly, stands as a nice upgrade.
At 30, Brassard is still at or near his prime. The Penguins get Brassard for two playoff runs, as his $5 million cap hit runs through 2018-19.
Brassard’s quietly enjoyed a strong season in Ottawa, as he has 18 goals and 38 points in 58 games. He’s just one point shy of tying his 2016-17 total, even though that came in 81 contests. The former Rangers forward is battle-tested in the postseason, too.
Derick Brassard has 55 points on 22 goals and 33 assists in 78 career playoff games. He has scored 4 game-winning goals. He has played into the Conference Final three times, once into the Cup Final.
Why the Senators made the trade: The Senators are in liquidation mode, and to start, this trade helps Ottawa get a first-rounder back after giving one up in the Matt Duchene trade. Granted, the Penguins’ first-rounder could be very low – they’d love it to be the 31st selection – but it’s a key return for the rebuilding Sens.
Gustavsson, 19, isn’t just a throw-in, either. He was a second-round pick (55th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. With Craig Anderson already 36, the Senators need to look to the future, and Gustavsson has a chance to be a part of the picture in net.
Filip Gustavsson led Sweden to a silver medal at the World Junior last month, and was named the tournament’s top goalie with a 1.81 GAA and a .924 save % in 6 games. #Sens
This is also worth noting from a Senators perspective:
With what might still be on the horizon, not retaining any of Brassard’s salary is worth noting (Vegas is on the hook for 40%). Teams are only allowed to retain the salaries of 3 players in any given season. The Sens have already done it once (Phaneuf).
Vegas gets some grit in Reaves and a pick, but get roped into 40 percent of Brassard’s salary for some reason or another.
Who won the trade?
Senators fans are unlikely to be happy with the team cleaning house, particularly with players who helped them make a deep playoff run remarkably recently. Still, they’re diving in with a reset, if not a rebuild, and this is a decent return. Getting a bit more for Cole could help, and Gustavsson’s development will play a significant role in how this move is viewed in hindsight.
The Penguins are going for it, as they have been for some time. Brassard fills a serious need, and while defense is an issue for Pittsburgh, Cole found himself as a healthy scratch and obviously on the way out at times.
This is all about the present for Pittsburgh, and it’s easy to justify such a thought process. Let’s not forget that Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel are 30 while Evgeni Malkin is 31. You never know when the championship window might slam shut.
Since Jan. 5, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are 15-3-1, the best record in the NHL in terms of point percentage (.815). Evgeni Malkin (32 points) and Sidney Crosby (30) are Nos. 1 and 2 in scoring. Yeah, you go for it aggressively.