As they said in the great movie Bull Durham: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains."
The only thing it's rained lately for the Pittsburgh Penguins has been injuries and mumps worries.
The Pens fought and didn't quit, but so under-manned with Wilkes-Barre call-ups and playing their 4th game in 6 nights, they were no match early for a strong Tampa Bay Lightning team. Considering the Pens had won the prior 10 games between the two clubs, maybe this was bound to happen some time or another.
Tampa struck early and often, scoring 4 goals in the first 21 game minutes of action- Tyler Johnson completed a hat trick for his 11th, 12th and 13th goals of the season and Nikita Kucherov scored his 14th to give the homestanding Bolts all the offense they needed.
To the Pens credit, they didn't quit. Patric Hornqvist scored in the second, and then in a fury Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang scored in the third for a last ditch effort to salvage the game, but it wasn't to be. The Pens ran out of time and their comeback bid fell too little, too late.
Still, at this point it is what it is. A valiant effort, but just not sharp enough early and they didn't have enough in the tank to compete really...But they still tried their damnedest, and admirably so.
A few more quick thoughts before we get to a well deserved holiday break:
- Marc-Andre Fleury deserved better. As mentioned, it was his 4th game in 6 nights. Last night he played 65 minutes and went a 7 round shootout. He probably should have had the night off from the beginning and not been sacrificed in front of a tired and overmatched team. So it goes.
Jeff Zatkoff was pretty good in relief, coming in cold and making 16 of 17 saves from early in the second period on. But what tells you everything you need to know is the fact he didn't get the start in the first place at the end of this hectic stretch. Shows where he stacks up in the organization at this point, basically as an after-thought that they don't trust to take a start in the NHL.
- As we noted on twitter, the very first goal against told the story. Derrick Pouliot could have gotten it out of the zone, but couldn't. Bryan Rust had a crack at it, but failed. Pouliot stepped up and had another shot, but couldn't. It happens, but that kind of summed it up. The other players on the ice were Andrew Ebbett and Taylor Chorney (a mostly minor league defenseman pushed into service as a forward) to go along with Kris Letang. Tough times. Everyone except Letang wouldn't have been in the NHL lineup if not for all the injuries.
- But, on a positive note (and why not take away some positives)- Letang goal. Hornqvist goal and an assist. Evgeni Malkin 2 assists. Kunitz goal. Nice to see most of the big names put some pucks in the net.
- Credit Tampa for blocking 20 of the Penguins shots. The Pens didn't lay down and die even though they were in an all but insurmountable hole. They kept it up, but Tampa for their part clogged lanes and were sound defensively up until the late Pittsburgh push.
- Malkin and Sidney Crosby combined for 10 of the team's 29 shots. They knew they had to put pucks on the net and did so.
- Nice to see them play Scott Harrington for 22 minutes, and Pouliot got 18 in only his third game. Both had some growing pains, but that's going to happen for young players. Never fun to lose, but it is fun to watch guys like them, as well as Simon Despres grow every game out. If there's a silver lining, it's all the experience they're getting now which should serve them well in the future to build upon once they are going to be every night players.
Ok, let's go ahead and wrap that up. On behalf of James, Lyle, Mike, Natasha, the 26 Eric's and myself thanks for reading Pensburgh and we wish you the very best this holiday season. Here's to health and happiness!