Connect with us


Penguins Room: ‘No Answers’; Montreal Got to Play ‘Easy Game’



Jason Zucker

A lack of consistency has been one of the few consistent things in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season.

That’s been evident during games, as happened in their 6-4 loss to Montreal Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena, and certainly from game to game.

Consider their inspired performance Sunday during a 3-2 overtime victory against the New York Rangers, a team they are trying to overtake in the Eastern Conference playoff field, and their showing against the Canadiens, who have no hope of qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, a little more than 48 hours later.

“We should have grabbed those points,” Kris Letang said. “We didn’t have the same urgency we had against the Rangers. … I just don’t think we came with the same attitude, the same intensity, we came with against the Rangers.”

The fluctuations in the Penguins’ performances are part of the reason they’re clinging to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and no one seems to be able to explain why that’s been a recurring problem.

“No answers,” Jason Zucker said. “But we have to figure it out, because it’s not good.”


Kris Letang

Jake Guentzel gave the Penguins a lead 2-1 seconds into the game, and Evgeni Malkin made it 2-0 at 4:49 of the first period.

At that point, the Penguins seemed to have the game completely under control … until Montreal ran off four unanswered goals before the intermission, despite being held to seven shots.

“We came out strong, and kind of let our foot off the gas, let them play an easy game,” Letang said.

The Penguins did manage to tie the game by the end of the second, but played much of the third without injured defensemen Jeff Petry and Jan Rutta.

“It’s not ideal,” said Letang, who logged a game-high 22 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time. “Obviously, you want to stay fresh and, especially when you’re trailing by a goal, you want to get in the rush, you want to be aggressive and it’s tough when you’re playing (with) four (defensemen).”

Casey DeSmith

Casey DeSmith was scheduled to spend the evening at the far end of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bench, but went into the game after Tristan Jarry allowed four goals on seven Montreal shots during the first 20 minutes.

“Some pucks just found their way into the net,” DeSmith said. “Then obviously, it just kind of went downhill from there.”

DeSmith stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced, and while Montreal finished with a rather modest total of 21, the quality of the Canadiens’ scoring chances surpassed their quantity.

“Some of the chances we gave them were just a little too good,” DeSmith said.

Montreal is in the midst of a rebuild and was without a number of its top players — guys like Cole Caufield, Sean Monahan and Brendan Gallagher — because of injuries, but a watered-down lineup didn’t prevent the Canadiens from leaving town with a couple of points.

“Every team has skilled players,” DeSmith said. “That’s no secret. The league is as skilled as it ever has been, so you have to show up every night, no matter who the opponent is.”

Marcus Pettersson

The Penguins’ loss, coupled with the Rangers’ 5-3 victory over Washington, dropped them eight points behind New York, which is third in the Metropolitan Division.

That means that even if the Penguins sweep their games at Madison Square Garden Thursday and Saturday, which would be an epic and unexpected accomplishment, they still would be four points behind the Rangers.

Nonetheless, Marcus Pettersson said the Penguins, currently in the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot, aren’t giving up on the idea of moving up in the standings.

“We’ve got two games against (New York),” he said. “Let this one sting tonight, then watch some film and see what we can do better.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins finished their five-game homestand with a record of 3-1-1. Getting seven of a possible 10 points isn’t terrible, but the Penguins are well aware that they let two slip away against Montreal.

“You never want to have that feeling that you kind of let one slide,” Pettersson said. “When you’re playing well and the effort is there, having one slide like that by making … mistakes is tough to swallow.”