The Pittsburgh Penguins lasted a mere 23 seconds in overtime and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time in five days, 4-3 in OT at PPG Paints Arena.
In both games, the Penguins lost third-period leads.
The game was three periods that looked like three different games. There was the plodding first period, the special-teams exhibition in the second, then the high-flying third.
The Penguins’ locker room was dour. Perhaps angrier than at any time this season (and I’ve been in the locker room for approximately 30 of the 33 games). The room was at a low boil.
Evgeni Malkin took full responsibility for the winning goal. Players cleared quickly. A normally available player spoke for less than a minute. And there was also a curt, gritted-teeth tone to coach Mike Sullivan.
The Penguins were an angry bunch.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room:
Evgeni Malkin :
“My mistake. 100%. I tried to catch (Jacob Slavin) behind the net,” Malkin said. “I lost my edge a little bit. (They got) a three-on-two, they played (it) great.”
Malkin’s nine-game point streak ended on Thursday night, despite three power plays. The Penguins gained one point in the jam-packed Metro playoff race, but failed to put away Carolina again.
Malkin’s mistake was a point of frustration for coach Mike Sullivan, too. His typical 6-8 minute postgame presser was condensed to about two minutes. His answers were honest, but brief. Little explanation was needed beyond his few sentences.
“You just can’t chase behind the net. If you chase behind the net, it’s an automatic three-on-two the other way,” Sullivan said. “And it’s an important detail, and we need more discipline in that area.”
The Penguins failed to beat a team they are chasing in the Metro Division and lost another point that could have added to their slim lead over the New York Rangers for third place. The Rangers and Penguins have 43 points, but the Penguins have two games in hand.
It was a frustrating missed opportunity.
“Two lessons learned for me, and next time … (I need to) play better,” Malkin said. “But it’s my mistake, 100%. I respect that.”
As the game opened up in the third period, the Penguins traded goals with Carolina but were outshot, 16-12.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Carolina dominated the scoring chances (30-19) and high-danger chances (14-5).
Another old problem resurfaced. After taking a 1-0 lead, the Penguins gave up two goals in 17 seconds. Both may have been stoppable, but the Penguins’ failure to claim momentum after a big event or even hold the lead was problematic.
“No, I don’t think we relaxed,” Sullivan said. After a long pause. he added that, “I don’t know that I have an explanation for you.”
The Penguins goalie fought the puck in the first period, but was spectacular in the third. He was stellar in the second, too.
Carolina is one of those teams that shoots the puck from the rafters. If they can shoot, they do. They fired 36 shots on Jarry, including plenty from tight angles.
Thursday night, Carolina used the backboards effectively. On the first goal, Martin Necas scored after a perfect carom off a shot by Calvin de Haan. And Jordan Staal tied the game on a wrap-around later in the third period after Dylan Coughlan’s shot was well wide and caromed off the back wall right to Staal.
“I think you’ve just got to be prepared for anything against any team,” Jarry said. “You don’t necessarily want to give up anything from a bad angle. And I think just being prepared and being set and then trying to put the puck in a good place after (is important).”
The Pittsburgh Penguins began their NHL holiday break following the game. They resume their schedule on Dec. 27 on Long Island against the New York Islanders.