Penguins Room: ‘Do You Think We’re Not Trying to Shoot?’ PP Trouble
It is not that the Pittsburgh Penguins played poorly during their 4-3 loss to Boston at PPG Paints Arena Saturday.
They were competitive for much of the game, at least after the first period, but there’s not much margin for error against a team as deep and talented as the Bruins, who had locked up first place in the overall standings two days earlier.
“It’s Boston,” Evgeni Malkin said. “They’ve already won the Presidents’ Trophy. They do everything perfect.”
Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but the Bruins are very good at almost everything.
They entered the game with the NHL’s top-ranked penalty-killing, and showed why by thwarting all six of the Penguins’ chances with the extra man, three of which came in the final 7 1/2 minutes of regulation.
The Penguins’ power plays included a two-man advantage that lasted 45 seconds. They finished with 10 minutes, 12 seconds of time with the extra man, during which they generated only seven shots on Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman.
That, Malkin insisted, reflected the effectiveness of Boston’s penalty-kill, not any built-in flaws in the Penguins’ tactics.
“Do you think we’re not trying (to shoot), or what?” he said. “They block shots. We try to move the puck to someone who’s open. Maybe shoot more, but we’re trying.”
Mike Sullivan said the loss, which was settled by David Pastrnak’s third goal of the day at 17:34 of the third period, stung, but the Penguins don’t have the luxury of dwelling on it.
Not when they’re in a battle to secure the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference playoff field, and have to prepare to face Philadelphia Sunday at 6:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.
“We need to forget this game,” Malkin said. “We have to come back tomorrow and fight again. Every game is huge right now for us. We understand that.”
Bryan Rust had just one goal in his previous 14 games before Saturday, but scored the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first and second against the Bruins.
It will be a significant plus for the Penguins if that’s evidence that his scoring touch is going to return for what’s left of the stretch drive.
“It gives me a little bit of confidence,” Rust said. “But it would have been nice if we got the win.”
Boston had four one-goal leads over the course of the game; the Penguins were able to wipe out three of them.
“We kept fighting back,” Rust said. “We kept trying to come back. … We’re going to need a whole heck of a lot more of that here, coming down the stretch.”
He labeled the Bruins “a really good team,” and no doubt is aware that, as things stand now, if the Penguins get into the Stanley Cup playoffs, they almost certainly will be matched against Boston in the opening round.
“We’re not worried about that right now,” Rust said. “We’re just going to worry about taking each game as they come.”
Tristan Jarry didn’t have much of a chance to stop either of Boston’s power-play goals.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy put a shot into a mostly open net with one second remaining on Boston’s first try with the extra man, and Pastrnak deflected a shot out of the air and by Jarry on the Bruins’ third-man advantage.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ penalty-kill unit has been struggling of late, and Boston capitalized on the flaws it uncovered in that group.
“They were spreading us, moving our box and getting it in between us,” Jarry said. “It’s tough when we’re playing a style of play where we want to stay tight and we want to stay together and help each other. When they’re spreading us and getting us apart, it’s tough to cover multiple guys.”