The Pittsburgh Penguins did not have a good debut without center Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger. The team fired 42 shots on goal but scored just once in the first 59 minutes and 56 seconds as the next-to-last place New Jersey Devils beat the Penguins 3-2 at the Prudential Center on Thursday night.
There was lots of traffic near the nets, but the cohesive offense wasn’t there.
“I thought when we had O-zone time, we had good chances, I just think we’ve got to get to the front of the net a little more,” Jake Guentzel said. “(Wedgewood) saw too many of those shots. We’ll take the number of shots but we have to make sure we’re making it tougher on him next time.”
The Penguins’ second goal came with just four seconds remaining in the game when Bryan Rust whipped a wrister through New Jersey goalie Scott Wedgewood.
The first period was more of an introduction. It was the first Penguins game of eight against New Jersey. However, 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes (7) broke the ice with a slick individual play. He stole the puck from the Penguins breakout, then slipped around the Penguins defense for a wicked wrister in the six inches between goalie Tristan Jarry’s shoulder and the crossbar.
The Penguins also had to introduce themselves to their new teammates. Three of the four Penguins lines had new faces as Evgeni Malkin, Teddy Blueger, and Jared McCann are on IR.
New Jersey also upped their forecheck pressure in the second period. They used their chips on the table to come after the Penguins. It wasn’t uncommon to see three skaters inside the blue line.
The Penguins looked good on paper, but the eye tests favored New Jersey in a big way. New Jersey scored twice more in the second period.
“We didn’t like too much of the first. We pushed in the second and third, but you can’t spot them that many goals,” Guentzel said. “That’s the good thing about the schedule, we get them on Saturday and Sunday…”
First, the home of Tony Soprano scored a power-play goal. With a few bodies in front of the net, New Jersey defenseman P.K. Subban (3) unleashed a slap shot from the point. Jarry didn’t see the puck until it was zipping through his five-hole. 2-0.
Then, 97 seconds later, Travis Zajac (3) was given credit for the unknowing deflection of Damon Severson’s soft point shot.
The Penguins did score a power-play goal, too. Late in the second period, after Evan Rodrigues roped Michael McLeod into an interference penalty, the Penguins finally cracked New Jersey goalie Scott Wedgewood.
Guentzel (12) deflected Kris Letang’s point shot.
It was the first goal the Pittsburgh Penguins scored on Scott Wedgewood, ever. On March 24, 2016, the goalie dished a 39-save shutout in his second NHL game. Even more impressive, you’ll recall that was during the “March of the Penguins,” in which they began their Stanley Cup run.
“Some of (the 42 shots) were quality, that’s for sure. When you’re trying to manufacture some offense, you’ve got to shoot the puck, put the puck on the net, and put pucks in play to try to create those next play opportunities. I thought the shot clock is an indication of that,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “…We had a lot of opportunity for those next play chances at the net-front or off the rebounds … we didn’t finish on as many of them tonight, but hopefully we will moving forward.”
The Penguins fired 42 shots on the New Jersey goal, but Wedgewood stopped 40. Tristan Jarry stopped 32 of 35. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the scoring chances were about even, with a slight edge to the Penguins.
We liked Anthony Angello’s game. He earned more ice time than usual and dished a pretty solid thump on Devils scorer Kyle Palmieri.
We also liked the offensive push from the Matheson-Ceci pairing. Matheson often jumped into the rush. They created shots and traffic in front, but nothing lit the lamp.
There were plenty of scrums and scrambles for the puck in the net area, but the Penguins only got one of those, and no one has any idea how Kasperi Kapanen didn’t score.
John Marino had a better game. It was a good welcome back for the sophomore d-man.