Recap: Pens Lose Game, But At Least Keep Their Helmets

Bruce Bennett

Fun night at the Garden could have been even more fun had the Pens remembered to bring their game. Sadly, Henrik Lundqvist didn't forget his.

I was going to write a fairly defeatist recap after tonight's loss (given I've been up since 6 am and won't be home before 1 am next day), but I just saw the video of poor Winnipeg Jets' Adam Pardy having his helmet stolen by a nutty Chicago fan and having his hair rinsed by his girlfriend's beer, and I've been laughing for the past 20 minutes.

Things don't seem so bleak now, other than Pascal Dupuis possibly being injured. Duper played his last shift late in the second period, around the time Crosby got into a tussle with Kreider over something, and didn't return for the rest of the game. Dan Bylsma didn't have any updates on his status.

The Pens turned in a subpar effort on defense and a disjointed one on offense, and Marc-Andre Fleury gave up 5 goals on 25 shots. The Rangers capitalized on the Pens' many giveaways and lapses, supported their goalie much better and what went by their D was turned away by Henrik Lundqvist, who was on top of his game tonight. He was lucky when the score was still 0-0 that the puck was cleared from the goal line after it went past him, but you know the old saying that you have to be good to be lucky, and boy was he good.

In the first period the Pens had some good looks. They started off skating well and hustling, outshot the Rangers 12-8, but seemed to get frustrated that nothing went in, so their solid play dissipated by the end of the period. They also started to lose pucks, and two defensive miscues at the very end of the period led to two quick Rangers goals, scored by McDonagh and Stepan. The second goal, with less than a minute left in the period, was particularly egregious because Matt Niskanen lazily extended himself instead of hustling to break it up.

The second period was the worst 20 minutes of Pens play in my recent recollection. It was one lapse after another, one cross-ice pass broken up after another. Dustin Jeffrey's bad giveaway resulted in the third Rangers goal by Brian Boyle. The Pens went 1/6 on the PP and that one goal, nudged in by Letang, made it 3-1. Instead of solidifying their zone and waiting for the right scoring opportunity, the Pens gave up a goal almost immediately, and it was so deflating. Things started getting chippy, Hagelin hacked Crosby's leg from behind, which set Sid off, followed by Dupuis getting hurt. To end on a high note, Chris Kunitz committed a cross-checking penalty and tried to fight Zuccarello with a ref standing between them so he got another 2 minutes for roughing. The period ended with Sid coming back on the ice and picking up four pieces of Kuni's equipment scattered around the NYR goal. He's a good human.

The third period was more of the same. More bad passing, more turnovers, Fleury allowed two more goals to Ryan Callahan and Derick Brassard, that was it pretty much. In the last minute Tanner Glass took his frustration out on Derek Dorsett, and beat him up quite convincingly.

Stat-wise, shots, face-offs and penalties were fairly even, Rangers outhit us 25-18, and the difference were all the turnovers. The Pens went 3/3 on the PK, which counts as a small positive, I guess. Six power plays, one (barely) goal. That power play needs work and attention. What we're seeing now isn't going to cut it.

Aside from the top line, Tanner Glass and Jayson Megna played hard, Sutter and Adams turned in their regular steady performances, and everyone else was varying degrees of awful. Malkin started a lot of his shifts in the defensive zone (?), was decent on face-offs, and oscillated between trying to take the puck and do it all himself and forcing himself to distribute. Jeffrey had a horrible game, Vitale wasn't much better, some bad giveaways, one bad penalty late, and Jokinen and Engelland were nothing worth mentioning.

Now the defense. The Letang-Niskanen pairing is an unmitigated disaster. Unlike Scuderi, Niskanen isn't able or willing to cover for Mr. Freelance. Paul Martin repeatedly failed to clear the zone decisively. Orpik was better but even he didn't manage to empty the crease with much consistency, leading to Flower being constantly snuggled by Rangers - he drew only one penalty for all that closeness. Maatta and Bortuzzo made some mistakes as well, but those bothered me the least. Maatta hustled and made up for his mistakes, he didn't give up on plays and if he did the wrong thing he went and fixed it. He's going to be great for us, and soon. Borts had two unlucky bounces but I can't fault his effort. Our top 4 led the turnover parade tonight, closely followed by forwards who gave minimal, if any, support. Afflicted by a bad case of unsupportivitis, it was up to Fleury to make all the saves and keep us in the game, and he didn't do that. Simple as that.

It was a poorly officiated game. The refs were letting some things go, but were calling other things of the similar kind, so it was very inconsistent and mostly the Rangers benefited from the loosey-goosey. Also, I've never seen a game in which the flow of the puck was so constantly interrupted by the officials.

Despite all this, I managed to have a good time. Garden is always a fun place to visit and I never take seeing the Pens for granted. They are something like 9-4 at MSG over the last 4 years, so I've had many more good visits than bad ones. Can't win 'em all. Ebbs and flows of a long season.

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