The Pittsburgh Penguins are mired in their worst slide of the Mike Sullivan era. On the three year anniversary of the Penguins locker room bloodletting in New Jersey which soon after led to sweeping organizational and roster changes, the Penguins lost their third game in a row and eighth of nine. The supposedly undermanned Ottawa Senators raced past the Penguins 6-4 at the Canadian Tire Center.
A third period rally led by the Penguins third line including Matt Cullen and Zach Aston-Reese was not enough.
“Time goes pretty quick. It will be Thanksgiving, soon. We’ve got to find a way to get to our game,” said Cullen. “I think there’s plenty of character in this room. It’s a matter of buckling down.”
The Ottawa run began with five minutes remaining in the first period. Penguins winger Phil Kessel had a rough shift, and it changed the Penguins fortunes, quickly. Kessel turned the puck over at the red line then did not get back on defense. Ottawa rookie Brady Tkachuk (5) playing his ninth NHL game was uncovered and easily buried a rebound.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was seen tersely speaking towards Kessel in the second period.
“I just think we didn’t help ourselves with some of the decisions we made. Either with the puck or without the puck,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “The first couple goals, we just didn’t pay attention to the details. We didn’t manage the puck late in shifts. It cost us.”
Two and a half minutes later, Ottawa defenseman Ottawa defenseman and leading scorer Thomas Chabot was left alone at the top of the zone. Chabot stepped into the slot for a sharp wrist shot. Mark Stone (9) slightly deflected it past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
Ottawa, known for a 1-3-1 trap instead came after the Penguins. Before the end of the first period, Ottawa converted on the rush. Matt Duchene (7) shuffled a hard pass through Murray’s five-hole, and the Penguins were effectively done. And Murray was officially done.
Murray was pulled in favor of Casey DeSmith during the first intermission.
Later in the second period, Ottawa salted the Penguins and the game. Stone (9) collected a generous Olli Maatta turnover at the Penguins blue line for a breakaway goal.
About one minute later, defensive defenseman Cody Ceci (4) was uncovered in the Penguins slot and blasted it past DeSmith.
It was 5-1, and Ottawa was free to laugh among themselves as the mighty Penguins sank. Late in the period, tempers mildly flared after Ottawa defenseman Chris Wideman leveled Derek Grant with a cross-check. Wideman’s stick snapped in the violent act as Grant hit the ice.
In the third period, the Penguins fourth line finally got on the scoreboard after a few good games. Aston-Reese (1) shot or passed to Bryan Rust in front. The puck eluded both Rust and Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.
A couple minutes later, the Penguins fourth line again put a mark on the scoreboard. Defenseman Jack Johnson led the rush to center ice and ahead to Bryan Rust, who raced down the right wing. Cullen (2) crashed the net to get the rebound goal.
“It’s a tough mountain to climb,” said Sullivan. “Having said that, I think we’re capable of climbing it.”
But another neutral zone turnover midway through the third period ended the Penguins hopes. Duchene (8) essentially had a breakaway goal as defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and center Derick Brassard gave chase.
Patric Hornqvist (8) scored late to make the score look better. And a two-goal deficit looked far better than the Penguins stars, Saturday night.
PHN will have a report card and more from the Penguins locker room, tonight.