On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Penguins provided a cornucopia of disinterested play. The Penguins awoke from their nap midway through the third period but it was too late as they waddled to a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at PPG Paints Arena, Wednesday night.
You’ll pardon the turkey puns, but it was the Penguins who were basted, despite two practices this week which were specifically designed to reset their recent play. Instead, it was a game for the birds.
The Penguins penalty-kill again yielded a pair of power-play goals and the Penguins again failed to score an even strength goal.
Canucks forward Brock Boeser, who mashed a Hat Trick when the teams played in Vancouver earlier this month, burned the Penguins just four minutes into the game. Boeser has four of his 11 goals this season against the Penguins.
After three straight turnovers by the Penguins, Boeser stole the puck at center ice. He skated past a falling Brian Dumoulin and away from defenseman Kris Letang. Uncontested, Boeser (10, 11) cleanly beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray. 1-0.
The Penguins managed to serve themselves a power-play goal a few minutes later. Jake Guentzel streaked past flat-footed penalty killer Eric Gudbrandson for a short breakaway. Guentzel’s blocker side wrister was stopped by Anders Nilsson, but Guentzel stuffed in the rebound (stuffing, get it? Sorry). 1-1.
The Penguins were not able to have seconds, at least until the Canucks had dessert.
Midway through the first period, Phil Kessel served another turnover to the Canucks. Kessel skated into a broken stick in the Penguins zone, lost the puck, and Canucks winger Louis Eriksson (2) finished a quick rebound. 2-1.
Seven minutes into the second period, the Canucks added a little salt when former Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot scored a power-play goal. Pouliot’s shot was headed wide but deflected off Dumoulin’s ankle into the net. 3-1.
A couple minutes later, Boeser helped himself to more with a power-play goal. Boeser beat Murray with a sharp wrister from the left circle. 4-1.
The Penguins continued to play the gracious host. They provided opportunities and chances for the remainder of the period. However, Matt Murray was brilliant.
The Penguins weren’t rattled by their performance. Murray could only shake his head at the Penguins misfortune.
“Some of the goals were just weird bounces,” said Murray. “I think our start could have been a lot better, but pretty much all of the goals they got were hilarious.”
Murray was referring to Kessel’s turnover–skating over a broken stick–and Pouliot’s shot off Dumoulin.
The Penguins made a game of it, early in the third period. After Penguins captain Sidney Crosby drew a penalty, Phil Kessel’s pass deflected off Guentzel’s skate. It counted–a power-play goal. 4-2.
In a microcosm of the Canucks feast, moments later, they nearly scored off a ghastly Letang turnover. From behind the goal line, Letang blindly backhanded the puck to the slot. The Canucks would have converted, except for a great save by Murray.
Just two minutes later, Brandon Sutter forced another Letang turnover in front of the Penguins net. Murray stopped Sutter’s turning shot. In a bit of hometown scoring, Letang was not credited with a giveaway for either.
The teams traded chances down the stretch, but the thermometer had already popped. Sutter scored an empty net goal at 18:40 to complete the win.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was not as critical of his team’s effort, including the penalty kill.
“I did see some improvements in the process,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan and his team can be forgiven for putting all the dressing on that turkey, but the Penguins struggles continue.