Tuesday night marks the start of the 2021/2022 NHL regular season. If you read any NHL pundits, you probably expect this to be the year the Pittsburgh Penguins started to slide into mediocrity. Their preseason matchups were a bit of a mixed bag. They will also be without superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for a significant portion of the early season and Jake Guentzel for at least a game or two. Add in the Penguins start the year on the road, against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning; it was beyond fair to expect the season to start on a bit of a down note for Pittsburgh.
Photo credit: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
And then they played the game. Tampa and Pittsburgh played to a 0-0 tie through the first period, with the only real highlight being six (6!?!) icing calls against Tampa. Then, twelve seconds into the second period, Danton Heinen scored to make it 1-0 Penguins. Brian Boyle extended the lead to 2-0 four minutes later, and the Penguins were off to the races.
Tampa never got closer than two goals at any point in the game and even pulled their goalie with over five minutes to play in the third period. While the early desperation move did help contribute two goals for the Lightning, it also allowed the Penguins to score three empty-net goals, ultimately winning 6-2.
Ultimately, this amounts to one win in an 82-game season. It by no means indicates Pittsburgh is a Stanley Cup contender or guarantees they will make the playoffs. But it is still a major statement win for the Penguins on a night when their opponents raised their Stanley Cup banner. Maybe the Penguins will miss the playoffs in 2022, but the rest of the League will need to play hard to knock them out. So, for at least tonight, Penguins fans can crank up the Andrew W.K. because “Elvis has just left the building.”
Photo credit: NHL.com
Next, Pittsburgh travels down the road from Tampa to Miami to take on the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.