The Pittsburgh Penguins had a nearly impossible task: beat one of the fastest and most talented teams in the NHL without Sidney Crosby, Derick Brassard and with a top winger who arrived only the night before. The Penguins gave a gallant effort and in fact may have been the better team at 5v5.
But special teams count, too.
And the Penguins lack of discipline at the end of the first period was too much to overcome. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel took penalties in the waning seconds of the first period. Then Matt Cullen took a tripping call just 10 seconds into the 5-on-3 penalty kill.
Brayden Point made them pay, made them pay, and made them pay.
The Penguins, at least in the first period when there were extended periods of even strength hockey, played a five-man game and did as their coach instructed–got three sticks in the puck battles. The Penguins just couldn’t finish their big chances, or they passed them away at the last moment (*ahem, Evgeni Malkin).
Unfortunately, nearly half of the second period was played by the special teams.
“We were the better team five-on-five. They know it. And we know it,” said Patric Hornqvist. Read more about and see Patric Hornqvist’s strong words in the Penguins locker room, Thursday.
However, perhaps the strongest testament to the Penguins overall struggles was Mike Sullivan’s subdued demeanor in the postgame press conference. It was not firey or angry Sullivan. PHN will explore this angle further, separately.