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Pens/Jets Recap: Dormant offense dooms Pittsburgh in Winnipeg

Pittsburgh falls 2-1 on the road following another night of a quiet offense and floundering time on the power play

Pittsburgh Penguins v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins search for more offense sees a shifting of the middle-six wingers. On defense, John Ludvig is back for his first NHL game since December 31st. Tristan Jarry back in the net.

First period

Pittsburgh gave up an odd-man rush against on the first shift and unfortunately for them it would be a sign of things to come.

It felt like the Pens were going uphill from the beginning, but it still took Winnipeg 10 minutes to score. Jake Guentzel pulled up in the offensive zone and made a cross-ice pass that Nikolaj Ehlers picked off and raced away on a 2-on-1. Ehlers passed over for Mark Scheifele to hammer home and for the first time in 167 minutes, Winnipeg was able to beat Tristan Jarry for a legal goal.

Already showing to be the lesser of the two teams on the ice, the Pens didn’t need a bad break but caught one all the same when the officials unexpectedly didn’t blow an icing call down. Seconds later, Nino Niederreiter was able to chip a big bounce off the back-wall in past Jarry to extend the lead to 2-0.

Not an enjoyable opening 20 minutes for the Pens! They’re outshot 13-8, outscored 2-0 and outclassed all over the ice.

Second period

Logan Stanley drilled Colin White away from the play and took the game’s first penalty for interference. The fragmented power play got one shot on goal (from Lars Eller) so, yeah, not great again.

Soon after, the lumbering Stanley is right back to the penalty box, but the Pens again are dormant on the power play.

But Pittsburgh kept chipping away and finally got on the board. Erik Karlsson fired a hard shot on net that Bryan Rust deflected in and the Pens put one in the net to get within one goal.

Nice middle period for the Pens, but due to a faulty power play they can’t climb all the way out of the hole the dug in the first.

Third period

Connor Hellebuyck keeps the Pens from tying it up as the game ambles on, and Tristan Jarry matches him with a beauty of a save from a Jets player coming right down the middle.

Drew O’Connor earns a power play with 7:15 to go when he dumps the puck in and Nate Schmidt interferes with him. The Jets hit iron on a shot going the other way, Sidney Crosby gets one decent chance in front but it doesn’t connect.

Evgeni Malkin takes a high-sticking penalty after the penalty expires with just over five minutes to play. Pittsburgh kills it off but loses two important minutes in their push for an equalizer.

The Pens use their timeout with 1:15 left to regroup for a final push. They pull Jarry with under a minute once they get setup but the 6v5 is incredibly static and time runs out on them.

Some thoughts

  • The Penguins are the NHL’s oldest team, yet had a 6-0-0 record this season on the second part of back-to-back games this season. But as Bob Grove tweeted, it’s not just b-2-b’s that pose the challenge, it’s usually the travel involved that makes it impossible; Pittsburgh drops to 1-8-2 in their last 11 games in the situation of the second night of back-to-backs when both games have come on the road. In some ways, that could make tonight a schedule loss.
  • Marcus Pettersson gave a brutally honest first intermission interview with Sportsnet Pittsburgh. He plainly stated that the Pens needed to stop giving up odd man rushes, make better decisions and were out-competed in the first period. He was correct on all accounts.
  • It’s only been a handful of games, but Jesse Puljujarvi is certainly living up to his reputation as “good hockey player but can’t score a lick”. He gets to the right places, had a couple of chances in the third period from the door step but has little ability to score.
  • But at least Puljujarvi was visible and has an excuse for barely breaking back into the NHL. Bigger forwards the Pens are counting on more like Reilly Smith and Rickard Rakell can’t say that much these days.
  • Over a long season calls tend to even out, but it can be funny how things pile up. Between the stoppages due to Minnesota’s buzzer going off and a failed goal challenge last night and the non-icing call, it’s seemed like a lot of the uncontrollables are not breaking the Penguins’ way right now. Not much to do about it but work harder and hope luck turns sooner than later.
  • Then again, penalties were 3-1 tonight and the Pens couldn’t make the most of it. Again. Even the areas that are going in their favor and opportunities for them to make their own luck aren’t exactly being maximized right now.
  • It’s easy to tell how the frustration is getting to Crosby. He got into Adam Lowry’s face after a whistle and then barked at Dylan Samberg after another. Looks like it’s about to bubble over for him.
  • There was some great goaltending in this game. It took a couple of quality sequences for the Jets to beat Jarry twice and then he was dynamite to hold the Pens in the game. on the other end, Hellebuyck showed why he is one of the league’s top goalies by stopping 35/36.

Another close loss for the Pens, who only scored three total goals in two days on the trip. Generating goals didn’t seem like it would or should be a huge issue for this team but right now they are searching for answers on that front.