Assistant coach Rick Tocchet gives his three impressions from the bench of the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis.
1. It’s disappointing. We had a 2-0 lead and St. Louis started to win more 50-50, board battles than us.
2. Disappointed we went 0-for-3 on the power play. It would have been nice to get a power-play goal.
3. Bright side is in the third we played really well. I thought Winnik and Spaling contributed for us tonight.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box.
The Pens have been forced to play shorthanded up top within games a lot of times this season when guys were injured on plays and had to leave, but tonight marked the first time they went into a game with 11 forwards. The coaching staff opted to keep the top-two lines together, which meant Nick Spaling, Steve Downie, Beau Bennett, Maxim Lapierre and Craig Adams rotated as a five-man group. And while I know a few of those players were on the ice for the first two goals against, overall I liked the play of that group. They chipped in offensively, as Spaling collected two assists – one on a goal from Blake Comeau and another on a tally from Downie, who showed some beautiful finesse to take the pass and pull it in tight while spinning his body and then lifting it nearside.
While the Pens certainly had their lapses and didn’t get the result they wanted, overall I liked their effort. As expected, this was a very tight-checking game. While St. Louis has a lot of top-end players who can score, they still have that identity of being a defense-first team who’s tough to play against. They stuck to their structure, keeping a wall up around Jake Allen and doing a terrific job of getting sticks and bodies in position so that the Pens had nowhere to go when they gained the zone. But credit to the Pens for the way they kept fighting through that the majority of the game. They had to earn every inch of ice, and put in the work to get it.
Head coach Mike Johnston: “The first period was really tight-checking both ways. Low shot totals, it was hard to get shots, hard to get shots through. They’re that type of team.We hung with it, we got our goals. Then unfortunately, we let them back in at the end of the second period. I thought their compete level went higher, our compete level stayed the same and we had to bring it up. We’re playing a top team a little bit shorthanded and I thought that quite a few players had really good games tonight and they really picked up their game, played at a playoff pace, but we still had 4-5 guys that needed to pick up their compete level.”
That crazy sequence where the Pens got out to a two-goal lead in a 17-second span happened because of Marc-Andre Fleury. He came up with a few huge stops during a Blues offensive zone shift, including a point-blank save on the Blues’ goals and points leader Vladimir Tarasenko. That allowed the Pens to immediately go the other way on a 2-on-1 rush and get the first of two big tallies. I thought he deserved better, as the Blues’ first two goals came off of net-front scrambles where he was dealing with bodies everywhere in his crease (and being run into in the process) while trying to track the puck, and the OT winner came off a perfect re-direct.
Note: The Pens lost defenseman Christian Ehrhoff 5:07 into the game when he got tangled up with Vladimir Tarasenko while racing for a puck and went hard into the boards. Johnston had no update on him after the game.