Perspective is a funny thing.
The Penguins got a point on the road against a team with a 24-8-2 record in calendar year 2019. And they did so without the services of Evgeni Malkin. That doesn’t sound too bad.
Blowing another late lead and turning it into a loss is becoming a familiar and disturbing trend though. Throw out the recent game he was pulled and Matt Murray has faced the following shot totals in the last four games: 39, 38, 41, and 41.
Pittsburgh is one of the worst shot suppression teams in the league, and its leaning too heavily on its goaltending in games when only leading by a goal late. Murray’s goal support in those last four full games: two, one, four, and three.
In those last two games, the Penguins tacked on empty net goals and comfortably coasted to wins over Washington and Boston — two strong playoff teams. In the latest two games, the Penguins have given up late goals with the opponent’s goalie pulled and eventually lost in overtime/shootout situations.
Goalie Matt Murray and coach Mike Sullivan are ready to shrug this one off and move to the next one. From the PG:
Nothing that came out of Tuesday should be seen as cataclysmic. They’re still in lesson-learning territory. But it’s certainly getting awfully close to the time where they need to start heeding the lessons and holding leads.
“You just restart the next one,” Murray said. “This game has nothing to do with the next one. It’s easy to reset.”
Sullivan said he has no concerns about his team losing confidence, especially his goalie, who has allowed late goals to force overtime four times in less than a month.
“No, no, I think this team is a battle-tested group,” Sullivan said. “They’ve been through a lot. I don’t worry about that.”
Sullivan’s tone is interesting. His key post-game takeaway, at least outwardly facing to the world, seems to be one of a positive nature.
“We’d like to believe we can defend leads better,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We have in the past for a long time and have been very good at it. I know we’re capable. Having said that, I thought it was a hard-fought point for us
He sounds like a guy who knows the ship is more or less pointed in the right directionc and everyone is working hard to row the boat in a good way. They’re just hitting inopportune obstacles.
Overall, that’s probably the right button to be pushing for this team. They need to clean up some items a bit on the man-advantage situations. And, big picture, Pittsburgh’s playoff outlook remains favorable.
With games in hand, the Hurricanes might be primed to past Pittsburgh for a spot in the Metropolitan bracket. However, as pointed out, Carolina still has three games against Tampa Bay and Washington, so a reminder that games in hand are only worth what a team can do with them is definitely called for.
The real key for Pittsburgh is not to end up Wild Card No. 2 and earn a first round matchup with Tampa Bay. Getting a point last night helps avoid that. Getting two would have been ideal, but it’s too late for that. All the Pens can do is move onto the next one.