After winning seven in a row, the Pittsburgh Penguins came out a little flat and never seemed to get it in gear. That turned out to be a big problem, since the New York Rangers roared out of the gates and stormed to a 5-0 win that wasn't even as close as the final score.
The mistakes were plentiful and everywhere for the Pens. You could point to defensemen not being able to clear the zone and throwing weak, hopeful efforts up the boards like Christian Ehrhoff and Robert Bortuzzo did in the sequences prior to first period goals against. Or faceoff losses coming back to bite the Pens,like Marcel Goc contributing to the first goal against.
Pick any aspect, and it wasn't pretty for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby was making excessive passes, and seemed to be off the mark on them too. The team didn't get too many shots off from dangerous areas- in a scarily reminiscent performance from last spring where games seemed far too easy for Henrik Lundqvist.
Luckily, right now, it's slightly disturbing for a footnote to come back to when or if these teams meet again. It's just one game, and after 7 wins in a row, hey, it's going to happen sooner or later. No one wins 'em all.
Not that it makes the loss any easier to stomach- the Pens couldn't match the level of their opponent, and that's never a good thing. Oh well, time to take lessons learned and turn the page for the next one.
A few more thoughts before we go:
- Setting the tone early means a lot. Sidney Crosby, tripping penalty on his first shift, 57 seconds into the game didn't set a good tone, but the team could never get out of it. Granted, Crosby is a multi time MVP, this is a November game. No sense in beating him up a lot (and it was a fairly weak penalty called on top of that), but it's worth pointing out. Need better from the best.
- Shots ended up 35-33 Rangers, which doesn't seem so bad. Boil it down to quality of shots and it was probably about 8-1 NYR in terms of REALLY good ones. Lundqvist stopped Chris Kunitz on a good shot but other than that, not a ton. Fleury saw rubber flying his way from in tight all night.
- After the Pens went down 2-0, 10:59 into the game, coach Mike Johnston used his timeout early to try and stem the tide and snap them out of it. Didn't work, but interesting to see him try aggressively when he felt he needed to. Will he do that again next time? As a rookie coach, it will be curious to see how Johnston grows, adapts and changes as he learns more about being an NHL coach and about this group of players.
- Losing big means changes- the most notable probably was reuniting Kunitz-Crosby- Pascal Dupuis and then trying Patric Hornqvist for the first time really with Evgeni Malkin. It didn't work out (obviously) but it seemed good to see Malkin with a player the caliber of PH72. What do they stick with going forward? Major shakeup or revert back to what worked early?
- First game of the season for Beau Bennett who was capable of carrying the puck through the neutral zone and making tape to tape passes in the offensive zone, meaning he was an instant upgrade. Now to see where he will eventually slot in, surely not in the 4th line role tonight. In a few shifts, Bennett with Brandon Sutter and Nick Spaling seemed to turn up the pressure a little bit.
- Kris Letang pulled up with pain in his leg after dishing out a hit along the boards and then went back into the locker-room. Luckily he would return, otherwise this bitter tasting loss doesn't wash out of our collective mouth for a long time.
- -3 a piece for the Christian Ehrhoff / Robert Bortuzzo pairing tonight, and there were only 3 even strength goals against. They didn't look comfortable even passing the puck between themselves and Bortuzzo was flopping around on the ice like a fish out of water a times. Might be time to break that pairing up. Maybe Scott Harrington time?
With a couple of days to dwell on this one, we'll see what the Pens come up with as they wrap up their road trip with a visit to Toronto on Friday night.