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“Disheartening” Loss: Penguins Doomed by Start Lose to Bruins 4-3

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By Michael Miller, Own work | CC BY-SA 4.0

It has become a script which the Penguins have rehearsed too often: spot the opponent a lead, turn over the puck, and rally in the third. However, the Penguins have not had enough rallies. The latest letdown came Friday in Boston–A David Pastrnak breakaway goal early in the third period gave the Boston Bruins a 4-3 win, at the TD Gardens arena.

The Bruins have won four straight. The Penguins have lost seven of their last 10 games.

The Penguins had only four shots on goal in the first period and otherwise spent most of the period in their own zone. Giveaways, which have been the Penguins Achilles heel this season, played a major role.

Six minutes into the game, Jake Guentzel‘s first giveaway was costly. Guentzel was quickly moved from center, where he started the game, to left wing beside Riley Sheahan and Phil Kessel. Guentzel’s outlet pass was taken by Bruins winger Peter Cehlarik, who started a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play; Cehlarik to Jake Debrusk whose cross-ice pass gave David Krejci (2) a wide open net. 1-0.

Guentzel and Penguins defenseman Kris Letang each had two giveaways. Brian Dumoulin was scored with three, which means the Penguins top defensive pairing had an astounding five giveaways.

Midway through the first period, poor defensive zone coverage burned the Penguins. Four Penguins collapsed low into the defensive zone, including Carl Hagelin, which left the slot uncovered. As Penguins center Carter Rowney and Dumoulin chased puck carrier,  Bruins forward Sean Curaly was uncovered in the scoring zone.

Curaly (3) ripped a one-timer past Penguins goalie Matt Murray. 2-0.

It was an avoidable goal. Second verse same as the first.

By the end of the second period, Penguins were able to fight back to even, 3-3. That’s when another breakdown cost the Penguins. Pastrnak got behind Letang and Dumoulin for the game-winner.

“We can’t show up after the first 20 minutes of the game and expect to win games consistently,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “I thought we controlled a lot of the third period, and that’s what makes it so disheartening is that we did a lot of the things we talked about (after the second period), but gave up a breakaway.”

The Penguins power play, which has been both the highlight and savior to the season was again successful. Trailing 2-0, Guentzel converted a slick pass from Letang, just a minute into the second period.  2-1.

The Penguins power play is ranked fourth in the NHL, at 24.7%.

Midway through the second period, the Penguins and Murray were again the victims of what Murray would call a “hilarious” goal. Krejci attempted a one-timer from the top of the zone but broke his stick in the process.

The puck squibbed directly to Matt Grzelcyk in the left wing circle. Uncontested, Grzelcyk snapped it through Murray’s seven-hole (armpit). 3-1.

The Penguins renowned resilience and vintage Phil Kessel were on display as the Penguins rallied to tie the game before the end of the period.

With just six minutes remaining in the middle period, the Penguins were on the receiving end of a turnover. Defenseman Justin Schultz stepped forward to intercept a Bruins breakout. Riley Sheahan slid a pass to Phil Kessel in Kessel’s favorite spot–the right-wing circle. Kessel unleashed a short-side wrister past Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin. 3-2.

It was a classic Kessel goal, a one-footed wrist shot from the circle with extreme velocity.

Three minutes later, Sidney Crosby got the Penguins second 5v5 goal of the game, but not without controversy.

A loose puck settled on top of a sprawled Khudobin. Crosby chipped the puck off Khudobin’s chest into the net. Originally, the goal was waved off–the officials believed the whistle had blown. However, upon review the NHL ruled the puck was already headed towards or in the goal when the whistle blew, thus the whistle did not effect play. 3-3.

The Penguins dominated chances in the third period but were not able to string together enough sustained pressure nor beat Khudobin, who is now 7-0-2.

(Non)Pressbox Nachos

Ian Cole was scratched for Chad Ruhwedel. Cole has not been the Penguins worst defenseman this season, so it was a curious move and a situation which could merit attention.

–Dumoulin and Letang had 5 turnovers, which is…awful. Letang was painfully out-of-sync Wednesday against Vancouver. The Penguins are not getting any push from the blue line, which is one of the large flaws of the current team.

This flaw should be fixable…any time now…

–We all assumed Jake Guentzel was a bonafide top-6 winger in the NHL. Were we wrong? His play in the playoffs did crest and fall significantly, despite strong offensive stats. He has not provided much this season.

Sophomore slump? Current funk? Misleading first impression? We won’t know the answer to this question for a while, but if Guentzel isn’t chipping in offensively, he MUST limit his turnovers and improve his defensive zone coverage.

–I thought Archibald played well against Vancouver. He was a part of the Penguins only sustained offensive pressure, before the third period. I’ve campaigned for, in chronological order, Brian Gibbons, and Bobby Farnham, now Archibald.

Against Tampa Bay, Saturday, Ryan Reaves will not be necessary. Archibald’s speed and tenacity could be an asset.

#freeArchie

–The Penguins look like a mediocre team which has a couple superstars (or just one, Friday). They aren’t creating forecheck pressure, they’re sloppy in their own zone, the defensemen aren’t able to lock down the defensive zone and too many players are non-existent in the offensive zone. It won’t be just a matter of playing better to improve their fortunes.

Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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