The Pittsburgh Penguins shot. And shot a few more times, but could not fight through the mass of LA Kings bodies which protected the LA net. The Penguins fired 37 shots at LA goalie Cal Petersen but had few second chances. The Penguins made just one mistake too many and lost their fourth straight, 2-1 at the Staples Center on Wednesday night.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were not without chances or the puck, but they were without goals.
Early in the first period, Kris Letang tangled with an LA forechecker and despite both players falling to the ice, only Letang went to the penalty box. Shortly after, uncovered LA forward Blake Lizotte (5) tipped Sean Walker’s slap shot for the first goal.
Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson was an unfortunate spectator several feet from Lizotte.
The Penguins nearly tied the game late in the first period. The goal light came on when Sidney Crosby deflected a pass towards the goal. The few thousand Penguins fans in the Staples Center roared, but the replays showed the fluttering puck hit the bottom of the crossbar and stayed parallel to the goal line but never crossed.
“I thought we played a pretty solid team game. And we just didn’t score. Sid hits the crossbar there, we thought that was in the net,” Sullivan said. “We had some really good looks. We hit a couple of posts. We had some great opportunities. It just didn’t go in the net for us.”
It took a few minutes, or more like 15 minutes before the Penguins began to find their west coast stride. The Penguins were bogged down by the LA neutral zone trap. Nor did Los Angeles create much offense at 5v5. Each team had eight shots, but LA had only two shots at even-strength. They had five spread over two power plays.
In the second period, the Pittsburgh Penguins zipped 14 shots at LA goalie Cal Peterson but there were no goal lights. The Penguins closest call came in the first minutes of the second period as Pettersson one-timed a shot squarely off the post.
The Penguins played with speed and energy but when they got the puck to the net, they looked more like Rocky chasing the chicken.
Instead, LA got the second goal in the final minute of the second period. Trevor Lewis cut hard towards the net and fooled Penguins Jack Johnson. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry stopped the first uncontested shot, but Lewis (4) stuffed his rebound
On paper, the Penguins had 18 of the 23 scoring chances through the first 40 minutes and 72% by the end of the game, according to NaturalStattrick.com
In the front half of the third period, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally cracked the scoreboard. Patric Hornqvist fought through LA’s Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Drew Doughty to win the puck at center ice, then again rescued the puck in the offensive zone to whack it towards Evgeni Malkin, who immediately snapped the pass to Bryan Rust (24) for the finish.
“(Chasing games) is not an ideal situation. It’s something that we don’t feel uncomfortable doing,” Rust said. “We’ve got a lot of character in here that we can come back in games, we need better starts.”
Jarry made 20 saves on 22 shots. Petersen stopped 34 of 35 for the next-to-last place in the Western Conference LA Kings.
New Penguins Patrick Marleau and Conor Sheary featured prominently. Sheary played over 18 minutes on the top line and Marleau played hard minutes with the third line. He played over 14 minutes. They each had one shot.
“We had quite a few chances tonight, so I would have liked a better outcome, obviously,” Marleau said. “I liked the way we took the play to them.”