Video Analysis: Breaking Down Jamie Benn's Game-Tying Goal Against the Pittsburgh Penguins
A great pass from Jason Spezza, high risk-high reward pinch from Trevor Daley and poor coverage from Sidney Crosby help Jamie Benn tie the game late in Pittsburgh.
There was a lot going on in Thursday's Dallas Stars comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
From the abysmal Stars penalty killing in the first to the line shuffling in the second and third and several refereeing moments of intrigue, there was plenty to fill endless pages of internet discussion and analysis.
But let's focus on what may have been the most satisfying moment of the night for the Stars - Jamie Benn's game-tying goal that game on the same shift Jason Spezza's apparent first goal in green was waived off.
(Okay fine. Long story short: the Alex Goligoski hit on Pascal Dupuis could have been a cross check or interference minor, but it's often let go as nothing. Goalie interference waive off in the third was in that extremely gray area GI call where I could defend it either way. If the referee thought Tyler Seguin could have stayed on his feet, that the contact from Evgeni Malkin was relatively minor, then it's a very defensible call as the contact was "more than incidental." That's not my interpretation of the events leading up to it, but I have the benefit of multiple angles, slow motion and green-colored classes).
However they got there, though, the Stars found themselves still down one late in the third period against the Penguins with the super-line of Benn, Seguin and Spezza on the ice with Goligoski and Daley. We all know how things ended up, but let's take a look at exactly what broke down for the Penguins (and it's a lot) on that game-tying goal.
The play starts with Benn carrying the puck over the blueline. He looks alone in this screenshot, and if this were a mere second or third liner, Penguins defenseman Paul Martin may have tried to tighten up the space here and knock the puck out immediately. But this is one of the best wings in the league, and Martin knows that, so there's a little space to work with.
The other two forwards are also charging hard, with Spezza on the boards in strong puck support and Seguin wide looking to head to the net. Both are also fairly well covered.
The Penguins are trying to cut off the Stars zone entry, but that's harder to do 2-on-2 than it is with the 1-on-4 scheme the Nashville Predators had drawn up. Still, things are reasonably well contained for the Pens here. The play is on the boards, and Sidney Crosby is back as the F1 with the ability to stay in stride in case Benn or Spezza comes out with possession.
The far side defender is in okay position, but he's cheating the pass pretty hard. Seguin has a good head of steam to his outside.
Spezza takes over the wall portion of the battle here, digging the puck out of the feet of the defenseman. Benn is giving puck support, but more importantly, he's starting to find a soft spot. At this point, with the defenseman engaged with Spezza, he's Crosby's responsibility, but I'm not entirely sure Crosby has recognized that.
Also note the Pens wingers are back in the zone, which means the Stars defensemen are likely close behind to provide other outlets.
Here's where I really don't think Crosby recognizes that Benn is his check. He's gone low below the puck battle with the idea of grabbing the puck once it's jarred free. It very well may be a play that's designed into the Pittsburgh coverage, but it puts him far away from his man when the Stars retain possession. And Benn is starting to float into a very dangerous area.
Spezza's little bump back to Goligoski here is quality, as it has enough pace to elude Patric Hornqvist. He also has drawn three Penguins to him, though Hornqvist is in okay position to recover and pressure Goligoski.
Goligoski surveys his options. Thanks to the poor coverage from Crosby, he has a high-tip option in Benn with Seguin providing a screen, but it's probably a low-percentage shot even with the traffic. With Hornqvist rushing out, Crosby staring at the puck but heading over to the slot area and Paul Martin letting Spezza go, there's a better one opening up.
Also, note Trevor Daley on the far side. He's in the midst of making a very important decision.
Things have gotten very squirrely for the Penguins low three very quickly. Martin and Crosby have simultaneously backed way off of Spezza, leaving him all sorts of time to collect the Goligoski pass and move the puck. Additionally, Martin is kinda sorta covering Spezza, but Crosby's not really covering anyone - just the space in the slot. It is a passing lane, but there are two extremely dangerous guys literally on top of his crease in Benn and Seguin - the other defenseman might want help.
Also, hello Daley. This is a risky play, since if Spezza can't get the pass across, it's coming back 2-on-1 or maybe even 3-on-1, but this is the time and situation for such risks. And the poor Penguins weak-side winger seems entirely clueless.
Spezza's eyes probably lit up when he saw Daley, but Crosby did come very close to getting a stick on this. He's in the right lane even if that's fairly poor positioning relative to where the Stars are (there are three Stars with only one Pens defender between them and Fleury). I can't tell for sure on replay, but I'm reasonably sure Spezza elevated the pass a bit in order to clear both Martin and Crosby and find Daley.
It's a heck of a pass from Spezza on a great pinch by Daley. This, even more than Benn's cloak of invisibility once he came off the wall, is the driving force of this goal.
Remember what I said about three Stars and one Penguins defenseman? You can really see it now. Crosby and Martin have mostly drifted into their current positions, so they're standing basically still and unable to jump in quickly.
Daley gets a good initial shot off, and if the rebound kicks out anywhere to Marc-Andre Fleury's right, the Stars are in terrific position. Heck, look at how wide open Seguin is.
[Ed. note: An astute reader pointed out that Daley actually bunted a no-look pass to Benn rather than shoot, perhaps because the pass jammed him a little or perhaps because he also saw how the Penguins coverage was in shambles. That's a brilliant play from Daley. You can see it clearly in the second replay in the clip below.]
There's the rebound that kicked out to Fleury's right. Crosby is trying to tie up Benn's stick, but it's far too little too late from him on this one (the same can be said for the now strong-side winger who has finally drifted down to join Daley). The Penguins' coverage was so muddled that even if Benn hadn't gotten a stick on this, Seguin would have surely slammed it home.
There's a lot of good from the Stars here - Daley's pinch, Benn's ability to find the soft spot, Spezza's pinpoint passing - but there's some equally bad defending from Pittsburgh. The Stars were able to take advantage of the seams that opened up to get what may be their biggest goal of the young season.
Here it is one more time in moving pictures. Suck on that goal indeed.