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Pittsburgh/Toronto Recap: Penguins lay an egg in 5-0 loss to Maple Leafs

Well this one wasn’t much fun. Pens lose big to Toronto

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After the Penguins lost 5-0 tonight to the Toronto Maple Leafs, coach Mike Sullivan summed it up pretty well.

“The NHL season is a long season,” Sullivan said. “There’s lots of ups and downs. You win a few games in a row and you feel good about yourself. This league has a funny way of humbling you. Right now I think we’ve been humbled. We didn’t deserve to win tonight.”

Can’t argue any of that. The Penguins came out flat tonight, and John Tavares scored in the first period on a tipped shot from the front that Matt Murray had no chance at.

Then, just 44 seconds into the 2nd period, Patrick Marleau scored and that really seemed to take a lot of wind out of the sails of the home team.

From there, Pittsburgh was just out of sorts all night. Their vaunted and excellent power play went 0 for 5 on the night. You don’t see that too often, and that’s usually not a good indicator of success for the Pens to suffer futility on the man advantage.

But futility was the word of the night. The Pens weren’t sharp, the Maple Leafs made the most of their chances and Morgan Rielly scored two more goals for Toronto to make the end result all but elementary.

The perfect example of the forgettable night was on display in the last goal. Patric Hornqvist was chugging to get back on defense and help on an odd-man rush against. The puck hits him and goes in the net to make it 5-0.

Sometimes it just goes like that.

Nothing was really going for the Pens, Toronto was a better team and controlled play for most of the first 40 minutes and goalie Frederick Andersen was on point and able to save all of the 31 shots Pittsburgh threw at him.

“There was no emotion,” Kris Letang said post game. “We were not creating like we’re used to. It’s one of those games. They played well defensively. We were flat.”

Flat indeed.

As Sullivan perfectly put it, the Pens were humbled tonight. As Letang noted, it was a flat and uninspired showing by the home team.

Not much more to do but turn the page and move on. Pittsburgh hosts New Jersey on Monday night for a quick chance to get this bad taste out of their mouths and go on to the next game.

Some Thoughts

  • In the second period, Murray was suffering through some apparent equipment issues in the form of his skate. He had to leave the game and Casey DeSmith entered cold. DeSmith made two saves and looked pretty comfortable in there, and the score was already 2-0. But when Murray’s issue was resolved, he got back in the net and then soon surrendered another goal. It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback it, but at that point it seemed like they might as well have just stuck with DeSmith. Alas.
  • One of Sullivan’s adjustments was to move Hornqvist up on the Sidney Crosby line and drop Jake Guentzel down to the 3rd line. Needless to say, pushing that button didn’t work for anyone in this game tonight.
  • As noted above, the Pens had 8:49 in power play time and got nothing out of it. That’s always a bad omen for this team. That group is usually very good and definitely relied upon to spur the offense. They failed mightily here. Not sure there’s any adjustment or hand-wringing to be done, just kinda sucks on this night when they don’t come through. (And give up a bad luck goal against late with the puck bouncing off Hornqvist to add insult).
  • Carl Hagelin usually “does good things” and adds small bits all over the ice with two-way play and using his speed to open up space for his linemates in Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. But Hagelin had no shots on goal tonight. He’s adding very little tangibly. It’s easy to say from a keyboard, but one wonders if Guentzel could have been moved with Malkin-Kessel and dropping Hagelin into a checking role, because offensively Hagelin’s adding virtually nothing right now. Hagelin and Chad Ruhwedel were the only Pens players not to record a shot on goal on the night. One of those is a lot more forgivable than the other...
  • Dominik Simon had his five game point streak broken (obviously) and he had a turnover that led to a goal against. But he wasn’t penalized by getting moved off the Crosby line. No real analysis there, just an observation since in the past Simon has been benched for less in the past this season.
  • Bryan Rust continues to play left wing and continues to be pretty invisible out there, as he has been through most of the season so far. That should be an area, one would think, to adjust and hope for better results.
  • A bit under the radar, but I liked the game by Olli Maatta. 2 shots on goal, 3 blocked shots, 2 hits, a takeaway and he made a beauty of a 100 foot pass to spring Derek Grant on a breakaway that necessitated the Toronto defender to hook Grant and generate a power play. Subtle but overall I feel like Maatta’s played pretty well in the last handful of games.
  • Jamie Oleksiak got out-positioned and had to take Tyler Ennis down which drew a penalty. When a 6’7 guy ends up getting bested by a 5’7 guy that’s not a great sign. No huge deal, but indicative of the whole night.
  • Phil Kessel put a team-high 6 shots on goal. But he also had a game-high 5 official giveaways on the scoresheet. Just like everyone, a bit sloppy.
  • Murray is always a target of scorn and discussion when he gives up 5 goals, but he wasn’t the difference in this game. Toronto had a bunch of great plays where they were making efforts to get shots/passes from deep that were tipped in the slot. Always difficult for a goalie, and as usual the Pens defense was just about on for the ride. And the offense was absolutely invisible. Tough night for everyone all around.

Well, the best thing you can say about this game is it is over. Pittsburgh wasn’t good and got blown out, and based on the effort from the top of the lineup to the bottom, that was the deserved result. Nothing else to do but flush this game and hope the team comes out with more effort and a better performance next time out.