Looking to break a three game losing streak on the road against an inferior opponent, the Penguins stumbled out of the gates and then were snakebit down the stretch by the goaltending of Cal Peterson.
“It was hard to get any flow in the 1st period because of the special teams,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we had a pretty solid team game - we just didn’t score.”
Scoring is important in hockey and only mustering one goal isn’t going to cut it. Worse, as Sullivan mentioned, the Pens got behind the eight-ball when Kris Letang took a penalty just one minute into the game. That would lead to Blake Lizotte of the Kings deflecting a shot past Tristan Jarry to give the home club a 1-0 lead.
Soon after the Pens got a power play but failed to score. Later in the period Jack Johnson would go to the box to give Los Angeles a second power play but Pittsburgh killed it off.
The Penguins couldn’t find an equalizer.
“[The puck] just didn’t seem to want to go in,” Sidney Crosby said after the game. It was a true statement as Crosby nearly scored on a sequence but somehow the puck just didn’t cross the line.
LA made it 2-0 late in the second with Trevor Lewis torching Jack Johnson on the rush.
The second period was also a turning point in Sullivan’s eyes. The Pens would have their final two power plays of the game in the middle frame, and failed to score in those four full minutes of the man advantage.
“For me, the difference in the game is the special teams department,” Sullivan said. “If special teams gets it done on either side, it gives us a chance. But I thought we had a lot of good looks.”
Looks aside, Pittsburgh’s power play was 0/3 on the evening. LA scored a power play goal to win the special teams battle, and ultimately the game.
The Pens lone goal did come in the third period when Bryan Rust tipped in an Evgeni Malkin centering effort to bring the Pens back within one goal.
WAKE UP! WE'RE SCORING GOALS!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2020
Rust gets his 24th of the season with assists from Malkin and Hornqvist. pic.twitter.com/afj1Qom3Fc
But that would be the only time they would put the puck in the cage. Peterson made 35 saves on 36 shots and blocked whatever his posts and crossbars didn’t.
Hot goalie plus poor luck plus bad power play equals a season-high fourth straight loss for the Penguins.
“We know that points are important, and we want to be playing well this time of year,” Crosby said. “Obviously you don’t want to drop four in a row, but it’s the reality we face. I feel like we probably deserved a little better the last few games, but you don’t get points for that. We’ve got to find ways to win games.”
The next chance for that comes Friday night in Anaheim.