PITTSBURGH — Bad luck and turnovers befell the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan elected for an unbalanced 11 forwards and seven defensemen lineup. The Penguins failed to muster chemistry and goaltender Matt Murray had a forgettable night as the Winnipeg Jets thumped the Penguins
It got worse, too.
Midway through the first period, crash-and-bang winger Patric Hornqvist was hit on the left leg by a shot and hobbled off the ice. As Hornqvist tried to skate to the bench, he was hunched over and unable to push with both legs. He received some medical attention on the Penguins bench before he departed for the locker room. Hornqvist is the fourth Penguins forward to be injured since the final preseason game.
The Penguins were playing with 11 forwards because of injuries to Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad. Head coach Mike Sullivan decided to play with seven defensemen, as a result. However, after Hornqvist was injured, the Penguins had just 10 healthy forwards and the lines were further jumbled to compensate.
“We wanted to get John Marino into a game. We think he’s played extremely well to this point. The fact that we’ve had a number of defensemen here, given the circumstance, it seemed like a logical decision. The risk associated with it is if you lose a forward early in the game, that’s the risk,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins suffered far too many sequences like midway through the second period. Winnipeg had sustained zone pressure when the Penguins were unable to connect on a breakout pass nor able to maintain possession because the five-player unit had lost its positioning.
The Penguins scored in the first minute of the game. Captain Sidney Crosby created a turnover in the Winnipeg zone then went to the net. Crosby (1) deflected the puck past Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
That was the Penguins highlight.
“I thought we competed hard tonight. The score wasn’t evident of the closeness of the game,” Sullivan.
Winnipeg scored the next four goals, and nearly five if not for a microscopic offsides infraction and review. Five minutes into the game, Murray yielded the first NHL goal by Ville Heinola, whose mid-range shot hit Murray and tricked across the goal line.
At the midway point of the first period, Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese blindly pushed an outlet pass for Teddy Blueger. However, Winnipeg sniper Nikolai Ehlers read the breakout, intercepted the pass and barreled towards Murray. Ehlers (1) snapped a glove-side wrister past Murray, who was screened by Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson and did not react to the shot.
The Winnipeg chill on Pittsburgh continued. lIn the first minute of the second period, the Penguins buckled again. Winnipeg defenseman Tucker Poolman (1) dribbled a slapshot through Murray’s six-hole (the blocker side armpit).
And the final break was former New York Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk who outworked Brian Dumoulin, Dominik Simon and Jake Guentzel in the Penguins crease after Murray fumbled a long-range shot and the loose puck was in the crease.
The Penguins managed 36 shots but missed many good chances, including Zach Aston-Reese who squarely rang the post in the first period and missed an open net in the second period.
Winnipeg was content to defend in the third period and had just one shot for the first 18 minutes.