Los Angeles traffic is notoriously bad. Stacks of smog-producing cars clog the highway lanes as inhabitants of LA inch forward. Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins felt the same frustrations as the never-ending rush-hour traffic drives. The Penguins controlled the puck, the game but couldn’t get to the center lane in their 2-1 loss to the LA Kings on Wednesday night.
The Penguins outshot LA 37-22. LA had just two even strength shots in the first period but escaped with an early goal and a 1-0 lead. In the second and third period, Penguins had their mail delivered into the LA zone but couldn’t get through the constant traffic for a second goal.
“I thought we actually played pretty well for a lot of the night,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. Even in the first period, it was hard to get any flow because of the special teams. Six of the 20 minutes is special teams, so it’s hard to get the flow in the first 20. I thought we had a lot of good looks. A lot of zone time. A lot of opportunity.”
Evgeni Malkin was able to navigate the maze with any regularity as he stickhandled through the LA blue line wall, which was often four-defenders wide. Otherwise, the Penguins chipped and chased.
The tight game magnified each mistake. LA didn’t make many, if any, mistakes. The Penguins made a couple of mistakes and those wound up in the back of the Penguins net.
“We did a good job of getting zone time. We hit a couple of posts. We had the three-on-one with a broken stick,” Sidney Crosby said. “It doesn’t seem to want to go in.”
Just a couple of minutes into the game, Kris Letang and LA forward Dustin Brown tangled as Brown forechecked Letang. During the entanglement, Letang used his free arm to pull Brown and earned a tripping penalty. LA scored on the resulting power-play.
In the final seconds of the second period, Letang jumped forward at the Penguins blue line to disrupt the rush but missed. Trevor Lewis quickly fooled Jack Johnson, who whiffed on his attempt to make contact. Lewis shed Johnson with a hard move to the net, and there were no backchecking forwards.
And that’s all LA needed.
The Penguins had 63% of the shot attempts and 72% of the scoring chances. And they lost.
Pittsburgh Penguins Tactical Analysis
As they did on Sunday, the Penguins did a lot right. They did everything but finish the chances, though one may debate if the Penguins did enough to truly break up the clog. There was one big thing missing.