It didn’t start well, nor did it end well. The Pittsburgh Penguins were outplayed, outskated and outhustled for most of the 60 minutes which mattered. The Anaheim Ducks scored a pair of goals in the first period and a pair in the second to beat the Penguins 4-0.
Three minutes into the first period, Kris Letang ruffled no feathers with a cross-ice pass to no one. Ondrej Kase grabbed the loose puck at the Penguins blue-line for a breakaway. Kase beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray with a backhand. 1-0.
Midway through the opening period, another Penguins turnover led to Ducks goal. Carter Rowney misplayed a puck at the Penguins blue line, which gave Rickard Rakell a clear path to the Penguins goal. Rakell’s backhand trickled through Murray. A softy, indeed. 2-0.
The Penguins power-play which has been extraordinary this season, took the night off, as well. Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano had a shorthanded breakaway after the Penguins, including Sidney Crosby, puck watched Brandon Montour’s clearing attempt.
Cogliano beat Murray. 3-0. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan replaced Murray with backup, Tristan Jarry.
The Ducks finished the scoring in the final seconds of the second period. Cam Fowler was left uncovered in the slot. Fowler one-timed a shot past Jarry. 4-0.
The third period saw little action and less interest. The Penguins had just seven shots in the final period. The Ducks had six.
Postgame Analysis and Press Box Nachos
A brutal night.
–Kris Letang. 37 games into the season and Letang is not gaining ground on his game. In fact, he may be losing it. His first-period turnover, a D-to-D pass, was five feet behind Brian Dumoulin. Midway through the second period, on the Penguins second power play, Letang made a couple of giveaways in his zone. The Duck had the better chances on the Penguins power play.
Letang’s drop pass to no one on the power play was even worse than the first period gaffe.
His rough play is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is the straw which stirs the Penguins drink. And it isn’t a coincidence; the Penguins offense has been ineffective, as well.
If you have any ideas, beyond scratching him for a week or trading him, the Penguins might listen.
–It’s been more than three games since a Penguins forward scored a 5v5 goal. The Chad Ruhwedel was the last Penguins player to score an even strength goal–in Colorada, two games ago.
The Penguins have painted the glass and boards behind the net with pucks. Crosby, Guentzel, Sheary, Rust… all pounded the glass with chances against the Ducks.
–The Penguins felt they played well after the 2-0 start. I guess that’s true? The mistakes were ghastly, however. Awful giveaways and defensive lapses. The Ducks, up 3-0, didn’t play with the same intensity for the final 30 minutes. The Penguins went through the motions and so did the Ducks, with a comfy 4-0 lead.
Mike Sullivan used the term “soul searching” several times in his postgame press conference. He also through several answers looked down and shook his head. His words didn’t betray him, however. He said the right things. His voice became emphatic at times.
Sullivan is visibly frustrated with his team. “You can’t score your way to championships. We’ve had this conversation time and time again,” said Sullivan.
The message is getting lost on a team which is searching for a spark.
–Matt Murray did not look well after the game. It appears a “bug” is making its rounds through the locker room. The word is that is why Matt Hunwick was scratched.
–No scouts were in attendance. A Penguins shakeup, however, should be on the docket, pronto. The Metro is too good to give too much ground and get too far behind if they wait too long.
If you checked out PHN’s piece on the 1991 Penguins shakeup, you might notice it began with a trade involving Minnesota. Perhaps history will repeat itself.
–It’s tough to offer a specific critique of a team which plays so inconsistently. Every facet of the game, from breakouts to forecheck, comes and goes. The Penguins jump in the offensive zone comes and goes, too.
They did push the scoring zone on several occasions but never sustained enough energy to pressure the Ducks beyond a couple of shifts in a row.
–Riley Sheahan had more giveaways than shots. 2-1. I will continue to point to this, as the third line continues to depress momentum and offense.
Crosby was cavalier as Montour’s clearing attempt sailed past him. The Penguins just didn’t account for Cogliano behind them.
Evgeni Malkin was 1-8 on faceoffs. His shots equaled his giveaways. 2-2.
–John Gibson. Maybe you’ve heard he’s from Whitehall? Made an extraordinary save on Sidney Crosby. Gibson dove to his left as Crosby shot for the top corner. Nearly parallel to the ice, Gibson managed to raise his stick to get a piece of the shot.
Gibson has struggled in Pittsburgh. However, he was good, Saturday night. Had he allowed a goal in the first 30 minutes, perhaps the game would have been different?
–Lastly, the Penguins need to stop fooling themselves. It’s been a consistent theme, “we played well, after…” That doesn’t count.
The soul searching Mike Sullivan discussed is about hunger. Two Stanley Cups. Well over 200 hockey games in two years. The Penguins are in desperate need of motivation or accountability.