It’s not always the prettiest plays which return the best results. It’s not always the system which outfoxes the opposition. Sometimes it’s about the execution of the basics and simplifying the game to accommodate what’s left of the healthy roster. And sometimes it’s about finishing the job and not assuming it is done. The Penguins succeeded in the first aspect but failed in the second. The Buffalo Sabres stormed the Penguins in the third period and took advantage of tired Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel in overtime for a 4-3 win.
The loss should upset the Penguins. They did everything they could, and everything they needed to do for 50 minutes. Unfortunately, Buffalo buried every mistake the Penguins made, and the Penguins have blown two important points in the last three games with lost leads.
“Well, it’s frustrating for sure. It was there to be had. I thought for most of the night we were the better team,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.
On Buffalo’s first goal, Marcus Pettersson needed to send the puck behind the net to Jack Johnson. Instead, he fired it up the middle. It was picked off and Jack Eichel ripped it from point-blank range. Murray could only hold his ground and hope for the best.
Buffalo’s second tally was the awful call on Garrett Wilson for finishing his check. And calling it awful is probably the most objective adjective. However, the Penguins PK was caught with new penalty killers on the ice. Zach Trotman went down in the crease, and Jake Guentzel didn’t collapse to the low zone to cover former Penguins winger Conor Sheary.
Different teams have different philosophies, so it’s tough to say who should have put a stick on Sheary in the scoring zone.
Offensively, the Penguins played well and created Grade A chances. Everyone from Jack Johnson, Erik Gudbranson to Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin had high-danger chances at 5v5. The Penguins used the wings for controlled zone entries and they held the puck low.
One thing which the Penguins did not do well was to get rebound chances. Too many of their great chances led to more possession but not a direct second chance. It was puck luck more than effort. Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark was wild, scrambly but effective as he deflected pucks in all directions.
Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson played his first game with the team. And to no one’s surprise, the screaming Twitterverse and blogosphere had it wrong.
More than a few called Gudbranson one of the worst defensemen in the NHL–negativity tried to out negative other negativity. It stokes the flames but it just isn’t true.
“I thought he played really well. He moved the puck. You can see the edge he plays with. I thought he had a strong game,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.
There is more in the Report Card section, but Brandon Montour who was planted by Gudbranson wouldn’t argue.
“He adjusted very well to our style of play,” defensive partner Marcus Pettersson said.
The potentially oversimplistic analysis of the third period is Buffalo pushed hard and got a couple of bounces. Sometimes, that’s just how it goes.
“When it gets down the stretch, we’ve to defend better get in the shot lanes,” Sullivan said before praising the Penguins effort.
Penguins Report Card
Erik Gudbranson: A-