(PHN) — For the fifth straight game, the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-2) score was a big fat zero until they trailed by at least two goals. For the third straight game, the Penguins trailed 2-0 before they brought their best offensive pressure. Without Sidney Crosby who is out of the lineup for six weeks or more, the Penguins turned to unlikely scorers in their comeback attempt but they couldn’t finish a second golden chance and despite the Penguins onslaught in the third period, New Jersey won 2-1 at the Prudential Center.
Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson activated midway through the third period and was (perhaps unsurprisingly) uncovered on the left-wing. Johnson (1) ripped a top-shelf wrister over New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood’s glove hand. It was Johnson’s first goal in more than 90 games but it was the only Penguins goal.
“I thought we played a strong game. I thought we had a solid game, start to finish,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Both goals were fluky. We generated a fair amount of quality scoring chances.”
The new Penguins lines showed their unfamiliarity in the first period. The Penguins were scoreless in the first period, but water is wet, dog bites man and Trump tweets. The new lines without Sidney Crosby were a little loose and the New Jersey Devils capitalized seven minutes into the game.
“One goal isn’t enough,” said Evgeni Malkin who was generally upbeat about the Penguins performance. Malkin led the Penguins with seven shots and had an amazing four takeaways.
New Jersey forward Travis Zajac got some puck luck in the first period. Zajac (2) deflected a puck off his stick, chest, and visor which fluttered past Penguins goalie Matt Murray. It was the 12th first-period goal the Penguins have allowed this season, against scoring only eight.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray spotted New Jersey a two-goal lead with just four seconds remaining in the second period. Murray made an easy save on a long wrist shot but lost the puck in the crease. Blake Coleman (4) beat John Marino to the net and poked the puck into the open net before Murray could find it.
The Penguins peppered Blackwood in the second period but never found their golden opportunity. In the first 11 minutes of the second period, the Penguins outshot New Jersey 13-3 and got the puck to the net but their roster isn’t necessarily constructed to overpower opponents like bulldozers in the crease. The Penguins remained scoreless, but an ugly goal at the end of the second period went against the Penguins.
For the fifth straight game, the Penguins trailed by multiple goals but this time their second-period domination didn’t help.
Through 40 minutes, the Penguins outshot New Jersey, outchanced them, and had more high-danger scoring chances but never really got close to a goal. Blackwood was equal to the challenges.
Midway through the second period, Penguins center Nick Bjugstad awkwardly tangled with a New Jersey defender at center ice. Bjugstad appeared to suffer a left leg or ankle injury. He left the ice and did not return.
The Penguins owned the third period, too. The Penguins allowed only two shots in the third period and put at least six shots on net in the final two minutes. and over 11 overall. Though the New Jersey scorers may be still counting. The official shot clock was 39-21.ed the Penguins with seven shots and had an amazing four takeaways.
The Penguins are now in fifth place in the Metro Division, one point behind Carolina and tied with Toronto for the final Wild Card at 22 points.
Murray stopped 19 of 21 shots. Blackwood played perhaps his best game of the season. He was brilliant and stopped 38 of 39 shots.