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Penguins Grades: Lots of Bad Marks, a few A’s; Penguins Lose in SO (+)



Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins Kasperi Kapanen Hat Trick

It was a bad loss. There’s no way to church it up or put a good spin on the Pittsburgh Penguins effort in the final five minutes. They had a two-goal lead by virtue of Kasperi Kapanen’s hat trick. The building was rocking.

And the Minnesota Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes to tie the game 4-4. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, who was otherwise very good, is not so hot in the shootouts. The Penguins could have buried the Wild in the first 50 minutes, but lost in the shootout after giving up two goals in the final four minutes, 5-4 at PPG Paints Arena.

“I think we were on our heels a little bit, and I think that even if it’s five on six, you’ve got to play on your toes and you still got to be aggressive when you can,” acting head coach Todd Reirden said. “I felt there were a few circumstances where we weren’t as aggressive as I would have liked us to have been, whether it’s even up ice neutral zone chances to pressure in the D-zone…”

The Penguins patchwork lineup continued to run hot and cold. On the fun side of the red line, the Penguins are ferocious animals. On the hard side of the line, the Penguins weren’t so great.

Minnesota was able to get space around the Penguins net, often flooding the low offensive zone with a couple of players at the net. The Penguins defensive coverage didn’t adjust–often, the defensemen left the Wild uncovered, or one defenseman was left to guard both.

However, with every reaction, there is a reaction. The Pittsburgh Penguins created a few turnovers or won loose pucks and transitioned with numbers against the Minnesota defense, which was without extra-forward help because of the strategy.

The Penguins had a trio of two-on-ones by early in the second period, and they multiplied but didn’t bear fruit. We’ll explain how and why they occurred in the tactical analysis. There were also three, maybe four, players worthy of a good kick after lackluster performances on Saturday. And they all had one thing in common.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.