Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 3-0 setback against the New Jersey Devils.
1. SLOW START
I thought the Devils played more desperate than the Pens, especially in the first period – and ended up with a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish as they’re such a difficult team to come back against. I thought the Pens were outworked, outhustled and outmuscled, with the Devils winning most of the 50-50 battles. And as both teams were coming off three-day breaks, there was no excuse for the Pens not to have their legs. While the effort got better as the game went on, especially in the second period, the Pens still had trouble managing the puck and making smart decisions with it. They just weren’t sharp.
2. PERIMETER HOCKEY
The Pens’ offense had been hot going into this game. They had scored at least four goals in four of six games during their win streak. They had an opportunity to continue that tonight against a goaltender playing in just his second career NHL game. But I don’t think they did enough to test him and make him uncomfortable, especially with how he was fighting the puck. Scott Wedgewood had some trouble getting behind shots and let off a few long rebounds, but the Pens weren’t able to corral any of them. Granted, the Devils did a phenomenal job of protecting him. They stayed structured in front of him and collapsed to the front of the net when needed. It was textbook Devils defensive hockey, but I felt the Pens could have done a better job of fighting through.
3. POWERLESS PLAY
The Pens’ power play hasn’t been the same since Evgeni Malkin got hurt, but it hadn’t been the difference in games as they won the first six games he missed. Tonight, it was a glaring difference. The Pens went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage and the missed opportunity that hurt the most came early in the game. Despite giving up a goal just 26 seconds in, the Pens had a chance to respond shortly after when Stephen Gionta went to the box. But not only did the Pens fail to score; they gave up more than they created – including a 2-on-1 odd-man chance. The first unit of Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Patric Hornqvist has to figure out how to capitalize in tight games like these if they stay together.