(PHN) — The Pittsburgh Penguins did not enjoy the mid-west this weekend. On Friday night, Columbus embarrassed the Penguins which didn’t put up enough effort. Saturday, the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues worked them over in the third period and cruised to a 5-2 win as 13 St. Louis skaters scored points at the Enterprise Center.
The Penguins lost two in a row and are suddenly looking tired and unable to compete after competing well for weeks without captain Sidney Crosby. The loss of energetic winger Bryan Rust on Friday morning carved another piece out of the Penguins lineup which has been ravaged by injuries. And things got worse for the Penguins, too. In the first period, defenseman Brian Dumoulin tangled with a forechecker and appeared to injure his right leg. He played only 35 seconds and did not return to the game, which forced the Penguins to play with only five defensemen.
The Penguins missed a couple of Grade-A chances in the first period. Just one minute into the game, Jake Guentzel was alone in front. Dominik Simon also had an uncovered look from point-blank range but St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington stoned both.
The Malkin line with Guentzel was dominant and outchanced their opposition 10-1, but didn’t put the puck in the net, which doomed the Penguins.
Midway through the first period, St. Louis put the Penguins in a familiar position, which means trailing in the first period. St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk pushed a long wrist shot towards the Penguins net. Goalie Matt Murray failed to make the routine save.
The Penguins pressed St. Louis in the second period with 19 shots and tilted the ice. Early in the period, AHL callup Sam Lafferty received a breakout pass and hit full speed through the neutral zone. Lafferty (4) buckled defenseman Derrick Pouliot’s knees as he flew by for a breakaway goal.
“If we keep bringing that same effort and clean up a few things, I think we’ll be good,” said Lafferty.
However, St. Louis forward Nathan Walker fooled Murray later in the second period when swatted a fluttering puck out of the air from 25 feet away. The fluttering and bouncing puck surprised Murray and the second period also ended with a one-goal St. Louis lead.
The Stanley Cup champions bombarded the Penguins in the third period. They pressured the Penguins and converted chances. Early in the final period, St. Louis winger Ivan Barbashev was the uncovered trailer in the slot. Barbashev (4) sniped the top corner over Murray’s shoulder for the additional breathing room.
A few minutes later, St. Louis put the dagger in the Penguins when McKenzie Maceachern sneaked behind defenseman Jack Johnson and deflected a pass into the net. St. Louis led by three goals midway through the third period, which is usually when the Penguins threaten a comeback.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang gave the Penguins some hope with seven minutes left. Letang (7) blasted a slapshot towards the net which deflected off St. Louis defenders and closed the lead to two goals.
However, the Penguins penalty killing unit again faltered. Chad Ruhwedel took a tripping penalty later in the third period, and the Penguins PK left Jaden Schwartz alone in front of the net. As the PK piled into the corner fishing for a loose puck. Schwartz (7) had time to stickhandle in front of Murray without pressure and easily chipped it into the net.
Murray allowed five goals on 27 shots. Fellow rookie-winning Stanley Cup-winning goalie Jordan Binnington was good and stopped 28 of 30 shots.