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Penguins stoned by Jordan Binnington, lose to Blues 5-1 in first leg of weekend back-to-back

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The Penguins looked groggy in this afternoon match-up, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Blues while failing to succeed on the power play.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Thanks to a little digging before puck drop, some wild stats came up when searching for the match-up history between the Penguins and Blues. Pittsburgh’s last home regulation win over St. Louis came on October 20, 2009 — the only home regulation win over the Blues in the last 17 years. And in the past nine tilts between these two clubs at PPG Paints Arena, all of them have gone to overtime. Crazy stuff.

The Penguins also put together an excellent tribute to Evgeni Malkin before puck drop, presenting him with a commemorative gold-plated stick for his 1,000 point achievement, a plaque made of steel from the old Civic Arena where he scored his first NHL point, and his game-worn jersey when he reached the milestone — all given to him by teammates Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel and team owner Mario Lemieux.

With all of that being said...

Here were the Penguins’ lines in this matinee clash:

And for the Blues, who are still missing Vladimir Tarasenko, but welcomed the return of David Perron from injured reserve:

1st Period

Former Penguin Oskar Sundqvist wasted no time and buried a wrister in the bottom left corner of Matt Murray’s cage four minutes in to give the Blues an early 1-0 lead.

In the following handful of minutes, the Penguins were gifted with a couple of power plays that they couldn’t take advantage of. Malkin was also (illegally) leveled just above the blue paint of Jordan Binnington’s crease by Robert Bortuzzo and was down on the ice in pain during the ensuing play, but no call was made.

At the 14-minute mark, an ugly turnover by Pittsburgh kickstarted the Blues’ offense the other way. Jake Guentzel and Marcus Pettersson couldn’t win the puck battle vs. Ryan O’Reilly after it was chipped into the corner boards, and defenseman Vince Dunn took advantage of an own-goalie screen by Erik Gudbranson on Murray, ripping one from the high-slot to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead. Dunn’s goal made it three defensemen with more than 10 goals in a single season for the Blues, a franchise record.

Pittsburgh entered the locker room trailing 2-0 on the scoreboard, 3-2 in blocks, and 9-8 in faceoffs won, but leading in shots on goal 13-10.

2nd Period

The middle frame started off really ugly for the Penguins. Less than two minutes in, Patrick Maroon positioned himself on Murray’s doorstep, reached around Justin Schultz’s skate, and poked in the Blues’ third-straight goal.

And then, less than a minute after that, Pettersson got absolutely walked by Maroon and his nifty stick-handling, and Jay Bouwmeester, another Blues’ defenseman, potted an easy shot from the low slot to grow St. Louis’s lead to 4-0. That was the opposition’s fourth goal on its 14th shot, and unsurprisingly, Casey DeSmith hopped over the boards and took over the net from there.

The Penguins finally got some life in the form of Dominik Simon, as No. 12 gobbled up a loose puck, then turned and fired a blistering shot past Binnington to cut the Blues’ lead to 4-1.

4-1 was the score after two, with the Penguins still trailing 11-6 in blocks and 20-17 in faceoffs, but leading in the shots on goal department 23-20.

3rd Period

The final frame came and went pretty quietly for the Penguins. The teams traded power plays, and though Pittsburgh really could’ve used a goal during its man-advantage, Binnington shut the door on a couple Grade A chances down low. St. Louis, however, succeeded, with Dunn netting his second tally of the game to give his team the 5-1 lead and the win.

The Blues snapped two streaks today: their three-game losing streak and the Penguins’ three-game winning streak.

Some Thoughts

  • Let me be the first to say that afternoon games are not kind to the Pittsburgh Penguins. They just looked stuck in second gear for the majority of the contest. The team was on such a winning high these past three games, that it was inevitable they’d regress back to their mean and drop a stinker sooner or later. Of course, it came against the Blues, a club they truly cannot figure out.
  • Speaking of not being able to figure out the Blues, the Penguins have only won one game vs. St. Louis over the last 42 years when trailing after two periods. It came on March 31, 2001 in a 5-3 victory. Sheesh.
  • Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers... the Penguins had too many costly ones in this game. And several Blues’ goals were the direct result of a few pretty bad possession blunders, especially in the early going.
  • After seeing consistent results on the power play with seven PP goals in the past eight games, Pittsburgh went 0-for-4 today. But it wasn’t without trying. Chances were there, and passes looked sharp. The puck just wouldn’t go in the back of the net. Big credit to Binnington and his ridiculous pad saves.
  • The Penguins ended up beating out the Blues 40-26 in the shots on goal category. Just another testament to Binnington’s skill. He has been so, so good this season.