Fourteen games into the 2021-22 NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-5-4) have lost more games than they’ve won. They are precisely at .500 after another lackluster performance and feckless power play. This time they ceded a crucial four-point game to hated rival Washington Capitals (9-2-4), 5-1.
Washington took advantage of the Penguins early adjustment period. With four new players back in the lineup, Sidney Crosby, Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, and Chad Ruhwedel, the Penguins were not cohesive in the first 10 minutes.
And the Capitals buried a pair, including a shorthander (it’s news when anyone scores on Penguins power play.
An early Penguins power included fumbling on the zone entry, which became a Capitals two-on-one. Tom Wilson slipped a pass across the slot to Martin Ferehavy (2), who ripped it short side past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, who didn’t get to the post.
The Washington Capitals again out-transitioned the Penguins. Alex Ovechkin and Garnett Hathaway got behind the Penguins defense, and Hathaway was open as he raced to the net. Hathaway (3) had the easy, tap, tap, taperoo.
However, the Penguins settled and began to find their legs later in the first period.
Jake Guentzel (4) converted a rebound in the final 90 seconds to keep the Penguins in the game.
But like moderates or level-headed humans, the Penguins scoring chances and sustained offensive pressure in Washington were rare.
In the second period, the already waning Pittsburgh Penguins legs appeared to leave them. Washington doubled them in scoring chances and high-danger chances.
More importantly, a pair of former Penguins scored goals for Washington.
Later in the period, Brian Dumoulin and Jeff Carter didn’t connect at center ice, and Lars Eller turned it into an odd-man rush. Daniel Sprong (3) fired the puck into an empty net behind Jarry.
Late in the second period, the Penguins were scrambled near their net. Conor Sheary (3) had plenty of time with a loose puck and snapped it past Jarry from point-blank range.
The Penguins managed just 17 shots in the first 40 minutes and trailed 4-1.
It certainly was not a welcome-back for Crosby or Dumoulin. In just his second game of the season, Crosby was without a shot in the first two periods and wasn’t impactful.
In two power plays, the Penguins mustered one shot and allowed one goal. The Penguins are scoreless in their last 25 power-play attempts. They had plenty of chances to establish the zone by winning three of four faceoffs.
Bryan Rust led the Penguins with four shots. Marcus Pettersson dished five hits, including one hard contact on Tom Wilson.
Rather than push hard in the third period, the Pittsburgh Penguins were again on the short end of the stick. Ovechkin delivered checks like the first of the month in the Penguins’ zone and created a turnover. Evgeny Kuznetsov (6) was the beneficiary and picked the corner on Jarry early in the third period.
Tom Wilson had a clean run towards Jarry midway through the third period. Wilson (4) neatly beat the Penguins goalie.
Six Capitals had multiple points.
The Penguins mustered only 26 shots.