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3 Impressions: Devils 4, Penguins 0

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Michelle Crechiolo of @PensInsideScoop gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

It’s not just that the Pens lost; it’s the way in which they did it. It’s not just that they weren’t executing – there wasn’t anywhere near enough intensity and effort. Pens head coach Mike Johnston agreed with a reporter that this is the low point of their season so far, and the players were so frustrated that they met for a long time after the game to talk it out. “We’re not playing right,” Evgeni Malkin said. “We’re not working hard. It’s tough right now. We’re mad at each other. We need to just stop, look in the mirror and start working. … It’s not only (lack of) goals, it’s bad penalties, turnovers, it’s everything. Not playing right in the system. It’s not just goals. Always if you score it’s a little bit better, but we can’t score. (We have to) play right. Not make bad mistakes.”

For many years, the Devils have been famous for being a strong defensive team – and that hasn’t changed under first-year coach John Hynes, whose Wilkes-Barre/Scranton teams finished with the AHL’s top goals-against in four of his five seasons there. The Pens had a lot of trouble breaking through their structure and getting to the net, as the Devils did a phenomenal job of forcing them to the outside. That resulted in the Pens struggling on their entries, as a lot of times the Pens would pull up when they didn’t see a way in and the Devils would get the clear. Even when the Pens did get a cycle going, they weren’t able to get a lot of quality chances. Overall, they just didn’t make goaltender Cory Schneider work hard enough as he didn’t see a lot of shots – just 21 – and not many of them were quality.

After the Pens’ power play cooled off in their last couple of games – going 0-for-4 against Montreal and 0-for-6 against Columbus – the team used entirely new formations tonight against the Devils to try and get balance on their units. They separated Sidney Crosby and Malkin and had them skating with personnel I haven’t seen them play a whole lot with on the man-advantage, particularly the captain as he was with Nick Bonino, Beau Bennett, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang. Meanwhile, Malkin was with his linemates David Perron and Phil Kessel, while Hornqvist (before he left the game) and Olli Maatta joined them. The changes didn’t spark much, as the Pens went 0-for-3 and again allowed more chances against than they created like last night in Columbus. At one point, Jeff Zatkoff had to stop Jacob Josefson on a breakaway.

NOTE: The Pens lost Patric Hornqvist when he went to the locker room just over midway through the second period and he did not return. Johnston had no update on him after the game. “He was taken out of the game and I was just told he wasn’t coming back in,” Johnston said. “I’m sure we’ll get an update over the next 24 hours.”
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