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Penguins/Coyotes Recap: Disaster in the desert. Malkin and Letang’s miscue torpedoes Pens

The Penguins were a step behind almost all night, until a ghastly mistake by two star players wrapped up an ugly night in Arizona

Pittsburgh Penguins v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins repeat the same lines and lineup from last game to close out their quick road trip.

The banged up Coyotes are going with 11 forwards and seven defenders.

First period

Early on there’s a lot of Pittsburgh flavor in the first goal — but it’s scored by the Coyotes. Former Penguin Jason Zucker scoots around Marcus Pettersson and chips the puck in deep. Rookie and Pittsburgh native Logan Cooley hacks a centering pass over and Pettersson and Jeff Carter don’t do anything to impede Zucker for a quick finish and a 1-0 lead just 2:23 into the contest.

It takes over 11 minutes for a member of the Pens’ top three lines to get a shot, but it’s a good luck. Kris Letang springs Sidney Crosby for a clean breakaway but goalie Connor Ingram keeps the five-hole tight and makes the save.

Jake Guentzel takes a high stick and the Pens get the first power play of the game. Erik Karlsson gets a few shots but the most exciting action is Alex Kerfoot dancing around Letang and Carter to get a shot on goal that thankfully Tristan Jarry stops.

The teams exchange a pair of chances at either ends but the goalies hold up until the final whistle.

Pretty lackluster start for the Pens, they’re out-shot 10-9 and not sharp in the opening 20.

Second period

Pittsburgh gets on the board and it’s an unlikely source that kicks it off. P.O Joseph steps up in the neutral zone, wins a puck and gains a zone entry. He dishes over for Lars Eller and drives to the net. Eller fires and all the commotion the puck skitters in. 1-1 game.

Arizona gets their lead back when Clayton Keller dazzles with his puck control and skating. He manipulates the Pens’ structure and puts a perfect pass for Juuso Valimaki in the slot to step into a wrister that Jarry doesn’t track through the traffic in front. 2-1 AZ back on top.

The teams trade power plays, Pettersson trips a guy but the Coyotes give up their advantage when Kerfoot slashes a Penguin. The Pens’ short power play looks really good and it doesn’t get credit for scoring as it just expires when Crosby chips in a Karlsson pass from not only a harsh angle but also a ridiculous amount of distance away from the net for that type of play to work. 2-2 game, vintage Crosby goal to pull his team back into the game.

The tie doesn’t last long, an unfortunate swing sees Arizona re-gain their lead again 1:31 later. With the puck jumping around, Ryan Graves tries to get a handle on it behind the net but Zucker makes a sneaky little poke of it back to the front. Kerfoot is their to tap it in, since Jarry doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head to realize the play suddenly shifted back to that post. 3-2 AZ.

Better period for the Pens to wake up and trade some goals, but they end up in the same spot after 40 as they were after 20, down by a goal.

Third period

The Pens start well, Jake Guentzel nearly scores at the net but is defender well by J.J. Moser. The momentum is halted by Jansen Harkins taking a penalty by driving Cooley into the net. Arizona again negates their own power play but still end up scoring.

It’s an all-time blooper with Jarry off the ice, Kris Letang drops a pass back towards the net for Evgeni Malkin. Malkin is shifting to his forehand and the puck clicks off his stick as he tries to drag it and looses control, and it slides right into the open net. Disaster class there. 4-2 AZ.

The power play cycles through as the Pens are understandably shook. Nick Bjugstad finishes them off on the rush skating by Karlsson as if he’s not there and flipping a puck over Jarry and in. 5-2.

At this point it’s only Jarry who prevents an ugly game from getting even worse, stopping various wrap-arounds, odd-man rushes and other quality chances. Time drags on but finally runs out to put this one in the history books.

Some thoughts

  • Rough trip defensively for Pettersson, didn’t like his game on Saturday and his typically excellent gap/rush defending was eluded by Zucker early on. These types of mistakes and goals against are uncommon
  • Coyotes hockey these days is just....Off. The cameras don’t follow the action, the ice crew tried to come on the ice when they shouldn’t have, the ice itself was choppy and tough for both teams to navigate, all in front of a tiny 4,600 person crowd. It’s a weird and all-around uncomfortable experience for a multi-billion dollar industry.
  • The Pens’ power play is up to an 0-for-18 drought, but it’s easier to handle when they score literally one second after it expires. It’s pretty telling in a bad way that this latest drought was more “business as usual” than even that much of a big deal, which isn’t a good sign.
  • But that bad beat for the power play wasn’t as bad as the goal technically allowed by the PK in the third courtesy of Malkin’s misplay of the puck. Brutal.
  • It was a demotion in lines for Rickard Rakell in the third, dropping down with Eller and Valtteri Puustinen. That flip meant Colin White went up to the Malkin line. Not sure what that was going to accomplish.
  • Besides that, a sum of all fears game. For a team that should and does know better, the Penguins often don’t or find new ways to shock and amaze in appalling ways. Letang and Malkin are often cavalier with the puck and essentially punted the game away with an unforgivable tandem of bad ideas, mistakes and misplays. They weren’t the only ones, even if their bad moment was the most egregious and visible. Karlsson only looked sharp for two seconds on his assist. Rakell got demoted. Bryan Rust didn’t do much. Graves and Pettersson were left wanting in key moments. You can go up and down the list.

A tough and bad night for the Pens, hard to imagine that going much worse. They now return home searching for how or even if they can right the ship before playing two more games before the All Star break.