The Pittsburgh Penguins game is a chance to stop the bleeding or dig their hole deeper. It remains quite a fall for the Penguins, but the good news is it can end. After holding the first-place tie roughly two weeks ago, the Penguins have slipped to third in the Metropolitan division and cling to a playoff spot by five points. The Penguins are historically good in March, and it’s not too late for the foundation for a huge late-season push, but first, the team will need to stop the bleeding.
After a week of questions and concerns, the Penguins turn focus to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, Tuesday. The game marks the first of a three-game six-day road trip which can swing the Penguins’ momentum or dig their hole deeper. They have points in 10 of 16 games against the Metropolitan Division this season (7-6-3). Tuesday’s penguins game is the third of 10-straight, and 14 of the Penguins’ last 16 games, against Metropolitan Division opponents.
After the morning skate, head coach Mike Sullivan announced center Nick Bjugstad was injured against Carolina on Sunday. He will be out week to week, but it is unrelated to Bjugstad’s previous core muscle surgery.
The Penguins also made a change to the choppy power play, which has scored goals in the last several games but also had a poor percentage and puck possession. Kris Letang was demoted to the second PP unit and Justin Schultz was elevated to the top unit.
The Penguins start Matt Murray in net against New Jersey. Murray has allowed at least three goals in five of his last six starts, going 2-4-0 with a 3.58 GAA and .866 SV% over that stretch. New Jersey starts Mackenzie Backwood who has been stellar over his last few starts. Blackwood is now an impressive 7-1-1 while posting a 1.76 GAA, .953 SV% and two shutouts in his last nine starts.
The Penguins had a lead after the first period but collapsed in a 6-2 loss to Carolina, Sunday. The loss concluded a disastrous weekend for the Penguins, who dropped both games of a back to back and were outscored 11-4. After a disappointing loss to Washington the day prior, the Penguins seemed motivated to start their game against Carolina. Patrick Marleau got his first goal in a Penguins sweater, but it proved to be the only highlight of the Penguins’ effort. Morgan Geekie spoiled the party by scoring his first NHL goal a handful of seconds later.
After Evgeni Malkin scored late in the first to give the Penguins their lead, the wheels seemingly fell off in the second period. Carolina scored the only two goals of the second and took advantage of the Penguins’ poor play. Jacob Slavin floated home a wrist shot to knot it at two while Jake Gardiner ended the period with a blast from the point. For how bad things were in the second, they got worse in the third. Carolina fired off three more goals to cap off the scoring and improve their wild card position. Justin Williams used a tip and a fortunate bounce to score two huge goals in the period. Morgan Geekie also tallied his second of the game to cap off the scoring.
Tristan Jarry started for the Penguins after Matt Murray started the day prior. Jarry played well but did face a few hiccups in a 30 save effort. Alex Nedeljkovic started for Carolina in his sixth career game. After a rocky start, Nedeljkovic settled in and ended the game having stopped 28 of 30 shots. You can read more about the Penguins game in Dan’s locker room coverage. Also, check out a breakdown of the Penguins’ defensive lapses.
New Jersey unlike the Penguins, remained victorious on Saturday in a 6-4 win against New York. Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri lead the offensive attack for New Jersey in the win. Damon Severson and Dakota Mermis also contributed by chalking up two assists apiece. Greg McKegg, Adam Fox, and Pavel Buchnevich all had two points in the loss for Newe York. MacKenzie Blackwood outdueled the duo of Henrik Lundqvist and Igor Shesterkin for the win with a 31 save effort. Shesterkin stopped 13 of 23 shots while Lundqvist was perfect on five attempts.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have made a habit of turning in solid performances against New Jersey. In 65 career games versus them, Crosby has recorded 72 points (33G-39A) while Malkin has picked up 54 points (21G-33A) in 58 games, ranking first and third in scoring among all active players.
The Penguins remain one win shy of becoming the seventh team this season to reach 40 wins. Since 2006-07, the Penguins and San JoseSharks are the only clubs to record a 40-win season on 12 separate occasions. With a win tonight, the Penguins can become the only team with 13 40-win seasons in that time frame. The San Jose Sharks, who currently have 29 wins this season, are the only team that can match 13 occasions if they reach the 40-win plateau in 2019-20
Zach Aston-Reese (Lower body, week to week)
Dominik Simon (Upper body, week to week)
Nick Bjugstad (Upper body)
New Jersey Devils
Will Butcher (Upper body, Out)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||15.1% (11-73) 27th NHL||92.2% (5-64) 1st NHL|
|Anaheim Ducks||26.3% (20-76) 5th NHL||86.3% (10-76) 3rd NHL|
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Rickard Rakell|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Radim Zohorna||Teddy Blueger||Brock McGinn|
|Drew O'Connor||Ryan Poehling||Drake Caggiula|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|Ty Smith||Jan Rutta|
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