The Pens were buzzing early and would finally snap their goal-less streak in the first period. Sidney Crosby (riding a personal high five game score-less streak) threw it to the net and Ruslan Fedotenko crashed in. The puck wasn't frozen and Fedotenko found it before Martin Brodeur did or the Jersey defense found his stick to slam it home. 1-0 Pens.
Sometimes even when you do the right thing, it's the wrong thing. A couple instances where Penguins did well, but still New Jersey got the goals to give them a 2-1 edge after the second period.
--Chris Conner drove the the net, stirred up the puck from Brodeur who wanted to freeze it. Usually a good thing, right? Except when NJ gets it right back, establishes zone time and traps Conner on a long shift, which lead to Niklas Bergfors goal. Bergfors is starting to be one of those notorious Penguin killers, now with two goals in two games against Pittsburgh.
-Then killing a penalty, Ben Lovejoy (making his season debut in the NHL) was in perfect position, but somehow the point shot from Andy Greene struck his skate at such an angle to re-direct in past a helpless Fleury.
Then, sloppy play gave the Devils another goal. Conner got back out on the ice, but after getting hemmed in their own end for a while, the line was ready for a change. Conner got the puck in the neutral zone, but hestitated -- seemingly not sure if he should skate the red line and dump, find someone else to pass the puck to, go to the bench himself. Whatever he did, he froze. Bergfors picked his pocket, and Travis Zajac found Zach Parise on a nice pass (and better finish).
It would be Conner's final mistake, as it was his final shift in the game.
With a second left, David "Kelly" Clarkson tacked on an empty netter. Nice one.
- Crosby had games where he didn't look like a force. Tonight was not one of those nights, he was all over the offensive zone, getting 5 shots on goal (with a total of 12 attempts) and several great passes. He played well.
- Ruslan Fedotenko was good too, with six shots on goal, the only goal and what would have been a second goal if the nob of Brodeur's stick didn't somehow catch a piece of it.
- That Nicklas Bergfors is playing like Forsberg against Pittsburgh -- in two games he's got 2 goals and 3 assists. He's got seven points in 15 games against the rest of the league.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was only average to maybe a little above average on a night he needed to be great.
- Congrats to New Jersey, who extended their road mark to 9-0-0 and are now the #1 team in the Eastern Conference when you look at the standings tomorrow morning. One more road win and they tie the 2006-07 Buffalo team for best road start.
- It's been tough sledding lately for Conner and Chris Bourque, neither of whom are playing very well at the NHL level at the moment. Will Pittsburgh stick it out with them or will they think of swapping them out for farmhands who seem to be playing well in the AHL (Ryan Bayda, Dustin Jeffrey, Luca Caputi)? Hard to say, but you have to believe the possibility will at least be considered.
As frustrated as we all are, the Penguins are still the 3rd best team in the East. Considering what they've had to weather lately, that's not bad. With Evgeni Malkin's return on the horizon, there ought to be a shot in the arm coming soon. It's just about surviving until the reinforcements get back. Four straight losses have everyone on edge, but it's not for the lack of trying. It'll come around, just gotta keep at it