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Recap: Penguins dig another deep hole, can’t quite climb out. Devils win 2-1

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The Pens fall behind, again...And lose this time

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Lineups

The Penguins roll out in jersey with a new look top line loaded up with Jake Guentzel, evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust; certainly three of their best and best playing forwards at the moment.

First period

The Pens get an early power play, Nick Bjugstad gets two decent looks at the net with the puck on his stick but can’t beat Mackenzie Blackwood.

The Devils get a power play but Pittsburgh’s red hot penalty kill does the job.

Shortly after that, though, a weird play in front of the net where the puck bounces off Guentzel and to Travis Zajac and bounces off his head and flutters in the net. Yeah, that happened. 1-0 NJ.

Falling behind is certainly nothing new for the Pens, who went to work and did well to control play and keep working, but to no avail.

Shots through one period are 13-11 Pens.

Second period

The second has definitely been the Pens’ big period this year, they’ve often roared back from slow starts and done very well in the middle frame.

And to an extent they do, handily controlling shots and zone possession, throwing several good chances at Blackwood. He has the answer for all of them.

With about three minutes left Nick Bjugstad gets tangled up and falls, appearing to hurt his groin or leg in an awkward fall and left the ice in pain. Wayne Simmonds would take an overly aggressive and dumb offensive zone cross-checking penalty, leaving the Pens to resort to Zach Aston-Reese on the first power play. Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

The Pens look like they would at least get out of the period, but a tremendous individual effort by Blake Coleman with four seconds left gives NJ a 2-0 lead. Coleman shoots from out wide that Matt Murray simply drops and leaves an extra juicy rebound for Coleman to swoop in behind John Marino and poke into the net. Bad, bad goal by Murray to give up at any point, but especially at that juncture.

Through two periods, all situations, xGF is Pens 2.4-1.56 for NJ. But real goals are 0-2 NJ, a fluke goal early in the first and a bad rebound gifted away late plus a hot goalie at the other end not making mistakes is a poor combination.

Shots are 15-8 in the period for the Pens, but it was only the last shot that mattered and NJ took it.

Third period

The Pens start strong again, Guentzel swoops around the defenseman and gets a look at the net all alone after kicking the puck up from his skate but his high shot goes cross bar and out, not into the net. So close, yet no cigar.

Finally, on shot No. 33 of the night the Pens get goal No. 1 of the night from....Jack Johnson!?! That’s right, Johnson breaks in his annual goal jumping up in the play, catching Blackwood off his angle and making it 2-1. Nice pass by Alex Galchenyuk to set it up and lead JJ into space.

But time is the enemy and isn’t kind to the Pens. When they pull their goalie, they get two great chances, one with Guentzel getting stopped in front of the net, another when Dominik Simon made a leaping effort to block a clearing attempt, moved the puck for Malkin who got a backhander with 12 seconds left that Blackwood found.

And that ends up as the game. 2-1 NJ win.

Three final thoughts

Power play woes continue. With the game 1-0, the Pens had three power plays in the first and second period. No goals. The same number of scoring chances (3) generated as they gave up with some lazy turnovers. Not enough shots, not enough of a difference.

Bad luck, bad breaks. Guentzel hit the bar really stands out, could have easily been a goal, just didn’t quite work out. Blackwood was almost perfect. Murray probably thought the puck would kick out a little, instead it hung in danger. Just didn’t quite add up

Digging holes. Does this team know you don’t have to give up the first goal? And also the second? It really feels like almost every game it’s going 1-0 Pens are losing, then 2-0 Pens are also losing. Usually they roar back, and to be fair they were really good in the last 40 minutes of this game too. But this league is really tough to consistently have to make comebacks. Sometimes it doesn’t always work. Didn’t tonight.

The lucky part for the Pens is there won’t be any time to dwell on this one with a game tomorrow at home against Toronto. They’ll need to call up a forward, probably, with Bjugstad hobbling off in pain.