Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
1. STRONG 40
All year long, the Pens have struggled to start the second game of back-to-back sets. When I asked Mike Sullivan about how they could reverse that trend tonight, he said it all began with a mindset and a mental resolve. They showed just that, because even though they allowed the first goal – which was scored on a fluky play – they bounced back and were clearly the better team through two periods of play. They had possession for the majority of the first and each line had their share of extended O-zone shifts, with the third line of Tom Kuhnhackl, Eric Fehr and Bryan Rust playing particularly strong. The Pens were strong in the second as well, firing 17 shots on Brian Elliott in that frame to give them 31 through two periods.
2. RUSSIAN ANSWERING RUSSIAN
Evgeni Malkin’s been relatively quiet in the goal department lately, but he made a lot of noise today with a huge highlight-reel goal late in the second period. Kris Letang forced a turnover in the neutral zone to Carl Hagelin, who slid a nifty short pass over to Malkin and he did the rest. He powered into the Blues’ end and right around Jay Bouwmeester before roofing a shot over Brian Elliott. It gave the Pens a lead that would only last for so long, as his Russian countryman Vladmir Tarasenko responded with a nearly identical score down at the other end. But it was good to see ‘Geno’ get on the board and see him have some chemistry with his newest linemate. I liked the way Hagelin was reading and reacting off him and Kessel, especially on the cycle down low and on rushes up ice.
3. THREE-GOAL THIRD
This game was anybody’s heading into the third, but when Troy Brouwer scored a goal off another weird bounce just 2:10 into the third, the Pens were deflated and couldn’t recover from there, allowing three total goals in the period. As coach Mike Sullivan put it, “We knew St. Louis was going to push back in the third period. We dominated the second period. They’re a proud team. They’re a good team. We knew they were going to push back. We just got to find a way to match the urgency through that stretch and control that momentum and we didn’t do that.”