Thirty-nine saves, a few of them robberies, a shutout when needed the most and ... No. 2 star?
Sure, Sidney Crosby was "the difference-maker," as Dejan Kovacevic would tell me in our conversation after the game. But Casey DeSmith jumped back in net after a heart-breaking final minute loss in Washington and helped snap a skid when the team was in dire need of a standout goaltending effort against a team they frankly couldn't afford to lose to.
Thirty-nine shots sounds like a heck of a lot, but outside of a select few there wasn't a lot to write home about in terms of Coyotes scoring chances.
A few, though, like this one against Michael Grabner all alone in front:
If that sneaks through past the very bottom of DeSmith's pad, the Penguins probably still walk out with a win.
"This was a team shutout, this was a team win, everybody needed this," DeSmith told a group of us in the room. "Kind of a statement win. It feels really good for everybody."
He had some more to say, especially about getting a chance to start again after the late loss in Washington:
DeSmith needed to keep the sheet clean, the Penguins needed to keep the sheet clean, and they did.
A number of the big saves happened within a few feet of me as I was in the corner just to the right of DeSmith's crease. So, maybe I add a little extra weight to his contributions, but ... 39 saves.
I was wholly prepared to shoot this photo with the top of the site in mind. And, while I'm sure we could have made that work, "No. 2 star" just didn't seem like it would make the proper headline after this statement win.
So, here's a question for you: Was DeSmith No. 1 or 2 star?
Each Coyotes player, one-by-one until nearly every skater went by, took a shot on net, was stoned by DeSmith, peeled out of the corner toward the bench or face off circle, threw their head back and rolled a collective set of eyes while muttering profanities at a seemingly impenetrable wall.
Seriously. Every player must have gone through the same routine in front of me, and that's just a second period worth of memories. In the first period, it was Darcy Kuemper squinting angrily through his mask, even as the score stood 0-0.
The Penguins weren't without chances in the scoreless period, and the one that stuck out the most was the first of Crosby's pair of unsuccessful mini-breaks on Kuemper. The goalie shut him down, but was clearly frustrated and circled past me angrily behind his mask:
SALUTE TO SERVICE
Thursday's Sunday's Best led off with an image of an Army Golden Knight parachuting into Heinz Field. That was the first of numerous ways the military and its veterans were recognized throughout the game.
Just hours ahead of Veterans' Day, the Penguins carried forward the efforts. At PPG Paints Arena, things got underway when veterans were brought onto the ice to stand alongside the color guard for the anthem.
A large flag was rolled out into the crowd, normally reserved for playoff games and stretched across fans seated along the red line. This time, though, it was stretched across the fans seated up behind DeSmith's cage. It was a different view of the anthem at the arena, and one I wanted to capture.
The Penguins' players usually face toward the center of the ice, but with a color guard present, they faced the direction of the anthem. So every player on the ice was facing the large flag, and it made a cool scene ahead of the first puck drop:
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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