Penn State’s power play, frankly, wasn’t that good.
It was stale. There didn’t appear to be much creativity, and even less movement. All in all, pretty ineffectual.
It also couldn’t have been much more important to the outcome of the game.
One Connor MacEachern wrist shot overshadowed much of those special teams struggles, as the Nittany Lions’ lone power play goal of the night served as the difference maker in their 4-2 win over Michigan State.
Goals By Period
The Nittany Lions’ power play strategy has become fairly predictable at times. They’ll often work the perimeter and hold the puck near the point, easily allowing opposing penalty killing units to hone in and disrupt the power play.
Just prior to MacEachern’s goal, a funny thing started happening. The Nittany Lions started moving. Not just cycling the puck, but cycling bodies. Drawing the Spartans out of position to open passing and shooting lanes. Sure enough, it worked.
MacEachern collected the puck near the left circle and had nothing between him and Spartans goalie Drew DeRidder but his fellow Connor, Connor McMenamin. MacEachern just let one fly that found a way through the screen and through DeRidder’s legs.
The goal gave the Nittany Lions (10-6-0, 2-5-0 Big Ten) a jolt during a game in which they could just as easily have withered, as they have done this season. After taking a two-goal lead during the second period, a similar script began to appear.
The Spartans (8-6-1, 3-4-0) scored late in that middle frame, then early in the third. It’s a script that had resulted in the Nittany Lions winning just one of their first six Big Ten games this season.
How It Happened
Midway through the first period, Christian Sarlo opened the scoring for the Nittany Lions. As they cycled the puck down low, Sarlo found open ice in the slot and beat Drew DeRidder glove side.
In the later stages of the second period, Ryan Kirwan doubled the lead for the Nittany Lions, jumping on the rebound of a Clayton Phillips shot and flicking a backhander past DeRidder.
A few minutes later, the Spartans got one back. Skating four aside, Cole Krygier jumped on a loose puck after a scramble in front of Oskar Autio and lifted a shot past the Nittany Lions goalie.
Early in the third, the other Krygier, Christian, leveled the game for the Spartans. Krygier weaved his way through the Nittany Lions defense and roofed a shot past Autio’s blocker.
Midway through the final frame, Connor MacEachern restored the Nittany Lions lead with a power play tally. Collecting the puck at the left circle, MacEachern wired a wrist shot through the legs of a screened DeRidder.
With DeRidder on the bench for the extra attacker, Tyler Gratton hit the empty net with less than a second on the clock.