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3 Impressions: Caps 3, Pens 0

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Head coach Mike Johnston gives his three impressions of Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss to Washington.

1.     Losing Hornqvist

A guy like that, that plays with the energy and how hard he plays, that does have an impact on your group, especially considering the circumstances we’re in. After a period we have one line together that played together earlier in the year with Sutter, “Geno” and Hornqvist. At the end of the first we don’t have that line anymore. It’s challenging, but it’s the same that we’ve faced over the last while. We’ve got to be able to handle that. That’s what teams go through.

2.     Close Game

It was a 1-0 with 10 minutes left (in the third period). We were still right there in the game. Shots were even at that time. I thought in the third period we had a couple of chances. We had a real good shift. We just couldn’t bury one. It would have changed the game if we bury a puck there.

3.     Pouliot’s Play

I thought Derrick was light on the puck tonight. He’s got to be harder on the puck, harder in the one-on-one battles. That’s an education for a young defenseman. He made some very good plays, which he normally does. But he has to be heavier on the puck and a lot heavier in one-on-one battles. 

Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the media level.

1. Going into the third, it was a one-goal game. And the Penguins dominated the first few minutes of the period, with the five-man unit of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Simon Despres and Scott Harrington producing one absolutely magnificent offensive-zone shift during that time. They held on to the puck for at least a couple of minutes, moving it around the zone with ease, getting pucks to the net and tiring out the helpless Capitals trapped in their end. But the momentum they built up came crashing down when Marcus Johansson scored on a 2-on-1 rush to put Washington ahead 2-0, and they later struck for a third one. The score is somewhat misleading, as the Penguins didn’t play awful, by any means. But they certainly didn’t play well enough to win, and with two straight losses (three, if you count their shootout setback to Florida on Monday), they’ve got to start finding ways to change that.

“It’s frustrating,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We were close and especially in the second we generated a lot of momentum, carried it into the third and that next goal is so important. They grabbed momentum with that second goal so we were hanging around there for awhile, but we didn’t get enough to get that first one.”

“We made one or two mistakes and it ended up in our net,” center Brandon Sutter added. “I thought other than that, we were still working, still playing hard, had some chances to score. But it just wasn’t our night.”

2. Crosby just can’t buy a goal right now. He’s creating incredible chances, but the puck just isn’t finding the back of the net for him. One play in particular that stood out for me was when he swept into his own zone out of nowhere and just knocked a shot attempt out of midair, like he was weed whacking. He then turned and wheeled back the other way, got sprung behind the D and tried to deke backhand, but Braden Holtby read the play perfectly and got his body behind the shot. Then on two other occasions, Crosby’s stick exploded into pieces as he was lining up one-timers. That’s pretty much indicative of the way his luck is going right now. If any of those go in, they’re on the highlight reel. And while they're not at this particular moment, Crosby honestly looks like he’s on the verge of breaking through.

3. I was impressed with the way the Pens defensemen performed on the penalty kill, which went 5-for-5 against Washington’s power play (tied for 1st in the league entering tonight) – particularly Simon Despres, Rob Scuderi and Robert Bortuzzo. Despres was just a beast the entire evening. He’s been a standout as of late with the way he’s combining his size, skill, sense and physicality. He started one shorthanded shift with a lofty backhand clear from his own corner that went the length of the ice, then followed that up with two huge blocks. Meanwhile, Scuderi and Bortuzzo were just making smart, easy plays and reads and getting the puck out when they had the opportunity.

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