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Recap: Depleted Penguins go down (mostly) without a fight

Tough night for the Penguins, who are no match for the visiting Winnipeg Jets.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


The Penguins’ depleted blueline absorbs another loss with an illness to Marcus Pettersson that requires a re-call of Mark Friedman. Dustin Tokarski makes his first career start as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

The visiting Winnipeg Jets are going with the following group tonight, including starting Adam Lowry and their checking line.

First period

Jake Guentzel takes the first penalty of the game by high-sticking a Jet in the offensive zone and Winnipeg takes advantage on their power play. After a scramble in front of Dustin Tokarski, including a few desperate saves, Blake Wheeler is able to find the puck from right in the crease and guide it over the line.

The Jets score again when Mark Scheifele tips in a Neal Pionk point shot — but hold the phone. The Pens’ coaching staff saw that Scheifele was off-side, so they challenge and the goal is over-turned, score remains 1-0 and the Penguins dodge a bullet.

And soon after, Pittsburgh is able to score on the rush. Kasperi Kapanen enters the zone and patiently out-waits the defensemen who loses his stick. Drew O’Connor drives to the net, Kapanen’s pass is redirected with enough mustard to go off David Rittich and over him and bounce into the net.

Winnipeg puts another puck in the net, but this time the refs immediately wash it off for goalie interference. The Jets’ coaches don’t agree and challenge the play. Pierre-Luc Dubois is certainly in the crease, but not to an egregious degree. The refs aren’t inclined to change their minds from the call on the ice, and Pittsburgh gets a power play as a result of the delay of game for the failed challenge.

Shots in the first end up being 15-8 Winnipeg, and they were a whisper away from having a 3-1 lead, but it wasn’t to be. The Pens are fortunate to be right in the game at 1-1 after 20.

Second period

The Penguins are unable to score on their power play and after a long stretch of action that included Ty Smith and Chad Ruhwedel stuck on the ice for about a two minute shift, Smith takes down a Jet behind the net to get himself two minutes in the penalty box.

With 1:59 left in the second, Winnipeg re-esbtalishes their led. Wheeler again is the key player, taking the puck to the net but opting to pass over to Mark Scheifele. Brian Dumoulin can’t stop it from going down. 2-1 game.

It only took 22 seconds for them to make it 3-1. Kyle Connor bumps his scoring streak to nine games with a pass over to the equally hot Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers rips a shot that beats Tokarski.

The horn sounds to end the period and the Jets are up on shots 14-9 in the second and 29-17 overall. Not much good happening for the Penguins.

Third period

Jason Zucker has been called the engine of the team, and he fires the fans and tries to give a spark to his teammates by dropping the gloves and giving up a lot of size to Brenden Dillon, but holding his own well.

A for effort, but the fight doesn’t yield any positive results as the Jets score under a minute later. It’s Scheifele again, hammering in a wide open one-timer to put his team up 4-1.

The Pens get their second power play of the game with 7:15 left after Rittich delays the game by flipping the puck over the glass. Like the rest of the game, it’s not there for the home club.

Some thoughts

  • It was an uphill battle this game for the Penguins without their three top defenders. Predictably, they had difficulties all night moving the puck out of the zone with possession, or sometimes at all which resulted in extended shifts across the board.
  • The third goal was indicative of the struggles all night. Mark Friedman didn’t have much of a play from his own blueline and just stabbed the puck out and to the Jets’ defense. A couple passes later and the puck is in the net. When almost every play is the defense going up the wall or just ping-ponging possession back to the other team all night, it’s tough to get anything positive going.
  • Despite that lack of help, the forwards didn’t do much to overcome the difficulties. Need extra efforts and players to step up in situations when so depleted and that wasn’t the case either. (Jason Zucker dropping the gloves and trying to fire up the crowd and team notwithstanding).
  • Even though it didn’t end up making a difference, it still was nice to see Zucker not go down without a fight, in the literal sense. The Pens needed some kind or spark or someone to literally do anything. Zucker is definitely that guy bringing his passion and intensity with a willingness to do what he can to try and get things going. Admirable trait.
  • Have to give the Jets credit too, they’re a very good team and in fine form having won seven out of their last eight. They also had to travel and we’re on a back-to-back, so it might be saying more about Pittsburgh’s lack of ability tonight than anything else.

The Pens’ road gets harder, they have Carolina sitting and waiting for them in Raleigh for tomorrow night.