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Penguins/Rangers Recap: Pittsburgh runs out of gas, drops 3-1 game

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The Pens start out pretty well, but their power play lets them down....Again. The Rangers win 3-1

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Pregame

Kris Letang is unable to play with a day-to-day injury, leading to another even more bare bones defensive lineup for the Pens. No changes up front and Casey DeSmith gets a second straight start.

First period

Feels like the Penguins have taken a ton of penalties early in games, and that continues here when Jake Guentzel gets the gate for slashing 2:52 into the contest. The Pittsburgh PK holds up.

Pittsburgh then strikes to get on the board first. Chad Ruhwedel shoots the puck in high and wide and the rebound drops down for Jason Zucker. Nice veteran move by Zucker on the rookie K’Andre Miller for Zucker to drop his shoulder, get inside positioning and be able to drive to the net.

The Pens then get two power plays, but it’s not pretty yet again. At one point they ice the puck. At other times they can’t get out of their zone. This power play is just in shambles.

The Rangers’ Brendan Smith has Brandon Tanev lined up for a big hit, but ends up making his own head smash into Tanev, which seems not ideal. Smith leaves the game.

Tempers boil over and Kasperi Kapanen gets in a fight with Brett Howden for some reason. Um, ok. Doesn’t look like Kapanen knows how to fight, so why take yourself off the ice for five minutes?

Shots are 12-9 Pittsburgh in the first. DeSmith made a couple of really nice saves, and it feels like forever since the Pens’ haven’t allowed a first period goal this year. Nice goaltending for a change.

Second period

Crosby tried the Michigan, I repeat- Crosby tried the Michigan!

Internet would have burned to the ground if that went in.

Penguins get another power play, just burn 2 minutes off the clock. RInse, repeat.

Pretty good defensive period for the Pens who are doing well to negate New York chances and limit as much as possible. Their luck runs out when Artemi Panarin’s bouncing shot goes to the net. Kevin Rooney looks like he has a tap in goal but he fans on it, but sticks with it and collects the puck and is able to bank it in past DeSmith. 1-1 game.

Shots in the 2nd are 6-5 Rangers. Pretty low-event, dull period. Not the greatest turn of events for the Pens being as they had almost 5 minutes (1/4 of the period) on the power play and again fail to do anything constructive at all.

Third period

The Rangers get a rare power play early on with Chad Ruhwedel going off for a slash, but they can’t get much going on either, save for a few good looks by Mika Zibanejad.

The tide feels like it’s turning in the third period, with the Rangers stepping up and playing better after the Pens had carried much of the early part of the game.

Ruhwedel takes a puck over glass penalty to give NYR another power play and the Rangers take advantage of their opportunity. Chris Kreider tips in a puck on an Adam Fox point shot and it’s 2-1 NYR with 8:50 left to play.

Pittsburgh gets one last chance when Guentzel gets held with 5:35 left. They set up in the o-zone but just have no ideas or creativity on how to operate and generate a lot of offense.

Panarin tacks on an empty netter at the last second.

Some thoughts

  • Kapanen got some time with the Pens’ top power play, an interestingly look since he’s a right hand forward shot. Unfortunately they couldn’t really get setup to even see if that would be a helpful addition or not.
  • As the Pens’ tweet mentioned, now three goals in the last four games for Zucker. Good to see him heating up and finding some form as of late.
  • Some power play time in the mix, but Pierre-Olivier Joseph played 10:52 in the first period. In his sixth career game! And he was one of the best players on the ice out there. Some seriously good stuff going on right now for the youngster.
  • Sidney Crosby was feeling some kinda way tonight. I’ve probably watched 99.9% of his NHL shifts, can’t say I recall see him even consider trying a lacrosse-style goal. All throughout the night, he just wanted the puck, he was trying a bunch of shot attempts, just a very active night.
  • Chad Ruhwedel, two penalties in the third period. No bueno. The delay of game was bad luck, but he also had time to do better and failed to do so, so it’s not just totally luck.
  • The Pens’ fourth line struggled mightily in the possession department and barely played. While the defense gets the attention, the lower half of the forward group is doing very little these days, especially the bottom line.
  • But the top half and the scorers just can’t figure out how to get started on the power play. It’s clearly the team’s biggest problem and area to address at this point. The personnel should be sufficient, but the strategy looks non-existent and the identity is missing. They need to figure out how they can turn this weakness into a functioning part of the team again.

Unlocking the 3 keys to the game (from the preview)

  1. Slow starters.. Some success! The Pens as the worst 1st period team in the NHL were able to not give up a goal in the first period, and even scored one of their own to take an early lead. Casey DeSmith did a great job to stop the first 15 shots he saw and kept the opponent off the board for the first 37 minutes of the game. Neither of that seems necessary to celebrate, but I’m guessing it’s the best goaltending to start a game that Pittsburgh has received this season, so credit to DeSmith for providing it.
  2. Young defensemen showdown. One of the Pens’ best chances to score in the third happened after a Jason Zucker wraparound attempt. With Shesterkin down and out, Pierre-Olivier Joseph had a lot of open net looking him in the face. But his young counterpart in K’Andre Miller was there to pay the price with his body to block the shot and take it away.

3. Powerplay struggles..again. And again it was a major, major problem. The Pens went 0/6 on the power play, now are 1/21 in the last 4 games. They could have gotten 600 power plays tonight and they would have been 0 for 600. Just atrocious stuff. And it cost Pittsburgh the game, being as NYR (not great themselves on the power play) finally cashed in on an opportunity in the third period and that was the game.

Overall, tough loss for the Pens. For the first 30-35 minutes they were the better team, but they could only translate that into a 1-0 lead. NYR pushed back in the second half of the game and the Pens’ power play is just so non-threatening and awful right now it cost them the game.

But, in the big picture, Pittsburgh has taken 6 out of a possible 8 points in four games against the Rangers this season. They played tonight without five defensemen. It is what it is as they’ll get a few days now to re-group and we’ll see how it goes next time out.