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PHN Extra: Penguins Analysis & Report Card vs. Anaheim Ducks

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PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 17: Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Bryan Rust (17) celebrates his goal with Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Jake Guentzel (59) during the first period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks on December 17, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 17: Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Bryan Rust (17) celebrates his goal with Pittsburgh Penguins Right Wing Jake Guentzel (59) during the first period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks on December 17, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

Another two-goal lead and another wasted lead. Another two-goal lead and another letdown. This time, the Penguins weren’t able to rebound with third period goals.

They certainly tried but Anaheim was able to defend just enough, and Anaheim goalie (Whitehall) John Gibson made just enough saves–in the third period.

“We’ve got to sustain momentum,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We played 40 minutes, not 60.”

Anaheim used the tried and true formula to gain the advantage; they cut off the cross-ice passes, packed the neutral zone and defensive zone, played tight hockey and waited for Penguins mistakes. The Penguins which used perimeter space to create dirty space in the first period wasn’t able to do so and Anaheim controlled the play.

Count Bryan Rust as the Penguins emergency flotation device. The gritty, zippy winger is doing everything and scoring right now — no need for a grade. He’s been dynamite in all phases. If a few more players followed his lead, the Penguins would not be passing out comebacks as generic Christmas presents at the office party.

The Penguins refused to muck and grind when the opponent demanded it. It must be confounding to Mike Sullivan that his team could be a great grinding team but sometimes refuses to recognize that. Sullivan uses the term “simple” to describe the grinding play.

When the Penguins middle lines use the words, “No Thanks,” the Penguins struggle.

The shot disparity wasn’t as bad as the overall scoreboard indicated. Because Anaheim loaded up their power plays with nine shots, the second-period disparity was 19-8. The 5v5 shot total was a bit more even.

Jake Guentzel was benched in the second period but returned to have a strong third period. He had a few high danger chances but could not finish.

Overall, Penguins got good chances in the third period and just missed a few Grade A chances; deflections went wide, John Gibson made a few nice saves, and the Penguins just missed the net.

The Pittsburgh Penguins simply failed to show up for the second period. A pair of penalties in the first three minutes, the first by Zach Aston-Reese just 15 seconds into the game and the second by Sidney Crosby just three minutes into the period set the tone. The Penguins gave up a power-play goal on the first PP, then were blitzed on the second.

Anaheim scored just after the second power play, too. Defenseman Jack Johnson broke up the play, but fourth liner Keifer Sherwood grabbed the loose puck and drove on Olli Maatta. Maatta could have easily ended the play with some gap control. Instead, Sherwood absolutely unleashed a wrist shot becoming of a top line player.

And for good insult, Anaheim converted a set play in the final two minutes of the second period. Ryan Getzlaf won an offensive zone faceoff against Matt Cullen and quickly shot it. The quick snap may have surprised DeSmith but Ondrej Kase sneaked behind Kris Letang and steered it around DeSmith.

Anaheim scored three goals in the second period. They deserved at least that many, probably several more. When the Penguins are bad, they are really bad.

Penguins Report Card

Olli Maatta: F-

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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