PITTSBURGH — The letdown was bound to happen sooner or later. The Penguins didn’t have their legs or their scoring touch when it mattered as the St. Louis Blues smothered them in the first period and Patrick Maroon salted the game away early in the second. St. Louis snapped the Penguins three-game winning streak, 5-1 at PPG Paints Arena, Saturday afternoon.
The Penguins didn’t settle into the game and St. Louis capitalized. Several minutes into the first period, former Penguins farmhand Oskar Sundqvist (13) was the late trailer and whipped a wrist shot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
“It’s all about perspective. We’ve got to move by this one. That’s all we can do,” Murray said. “You lose a game like that, you move on. Especially at this time of year.”
A few Penguins threw their hands in the air as St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko drove to the net and potentially interfered with Jake Guentzel who was guarding the area Sundqvist used for the shot. The Penguins arms went in the air, the official’s arm did not.
Sloppy Penguins zone coverage spotted St. Louis a second goal in the middle of the period. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson was guilty of a turnover in his own zone which set forth the St. Louis attack. Vince Dunn (10) beat Sidney Crosby to the slot then beat Murray.
The St. Louis onslaught continued early in the second period despite an initial push from the Penguins. Patrick Maroon (7) flew past Penguins d-man Brian Dumoulin on the left wing wall, circled the net and his centering pass deflected off other Penguins defender Justin Schultz into the net.
“They were desperate. They’re fighting for their lives, just like we are,” Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “They stuck to their game plan, early. They wanted to take it to us, obviously. Every team wants to do that, and they succeeded in the first 10 minutes.”
One minute after Maroon scored, he set up another for a four-goal St. Louis lead. Maroon zipped by a second Penguins defenseman, this time Marcus Pettersson and this time on the right wing. He circled the net again and neatly set up defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (3) for a one-timer.
Out went Murray, in came Casey DeSmith.
“Matt’s been really good, too. The reason we took Matt had nothing to do with Matt,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.
The Penguins eventually offered a little bit of pushback. In the middle of the second period, the Penguins broke the seal when Dominik Simon (8) snapped a loose puck past St. Louis rookie goalie Jordan Binnington.
The Penguins were not able to score again in the second period. Nor were they able to sneak one past Binnington in the third, either. Though the Penguins made a valiant effort in the third, Binnington was unbeatable.
Penguins winger Jake Guentzel was caught on camera with a look of disbelief after Binnington gloved his deflection later in the third period.
Dunn (11) scored a power-play goal with six minutes remaining to quell any comeback thoughts.
Largely on the strength of a desperate third period, the Penguins posted 41 shots on goal. Starting goalie Matt Murray stopped nine of 13 shots. Casey DeSmith allowed one marker on 13 shots.