The Pittsburgh Penguins are assuredly not on a hot streak. After pasting the seemingly helpless Toronto Maple Leafs last Tuesday, the Penguins turned in five straight ugly periods, including a 4-0 shutout in Toronto on Thursday and another gumper Saturday afternoon against the Buffalo Sabres. The Penguins committed a couple of turnovers on the first shift, and things didn’t get better until the game was mostly decided in the third period.
Buffalo stampeded the Penguins 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena.
In the first period, the Penguins continued their dreary play from Thursday. Actually, they may have further lowered the bar. In the first 14 seconds of the game, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin committed two turnovers, and Zemgus Girgensons (11) quickly snapped the puck past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry from the slot.
“We missed the first period. We’re not ready,” Malkin said. “We’ve not played great the last five, ten games. The same mistakes.”
The fun didn’t’ stop for Buffalo in the first 10 minutes. The Penguins second line with Malkin and second pair with Justin Schultz and Marcus Pettersson were on the wrong side of several scoring chances.
However, it was Penguins top-defenseman Kris Letang, who coughed up the next goal. Six minutes into the game, Letang’s short pass ahead to Sidney Crosby was instead taken by Buffalo forward Sam Reinhart, who stormed the Penguins net unabated.
Reinhart (22) went short side, top-shelf, and the Penguins trailed 2-0.
“They put the puck in deep. They had a good forecheck, and they were able to get pucks back,” Jarry said. “It was a quick pass to the middle and they were able to put it in the net.”
Midway through the first period, the Penguins earned a timeout. But first, Malkin took a bad slashing penalty, and Buffalo scored a power-play goal. The Penguins PK left Jack Eichel alone in the right-wing circle. Eichel. Really.
Eichel took a couple of strides and snapped it past Jarry for a 3-0 Buffalo lead. Sullivan called timeout, and while his words couldn’t be heard, his animated demeanor conveyed the point.
Midway through the second period, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally found a jolt of energy. The game began to turn, and Evgeni Malkin made one of those plays that only elite players make.
After being denied a pass along the offensive blue line, Malkin (19) stole the puck from the Buffalo defenders, swept across the slot and whipped it past Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton.
The third period marked the Penguins turnaround with real energy, but it was too late. Rookie Sam Lafferty didn’t tightly cover Jeff Skinner (12), who deflected a pass through Jarry’s five-hole. Buffalo reestablished the three-goal lead.
“You have to play hard but you have to play smart,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought our team worked hard to get back in the game but we didn’t play smart.”
Later in the third, after yet another Penguins penalty, Eichel scored yet another power-play goal. Eichel had time and space from the right-wing circle, again, and blistered it past Jarry.
Jarry stopped 21 of 26 shots. Hutton was solid when tasked. He stopped 40 of 42 shots.
Malkin (20) added a garbage-time goal from a scrum in front
The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost two in a row and now trail the Washington Capitals in the Metro Division. Those two teams will meet Sunday at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., on Sunday afternoon.