Assistant coach Rick Tocchet gives his three impressions from the bench of the Penguins’ 2-1 loss against the Dallas Stars.
1. The positive was a strong second half. I thought we played well. We just have to come out of the gate a little bit better. But the last 30 I thought we really played well, almost dominated.
2. I like the way Kris Letang bounced back. He was a little wild at the beginning of the game and took the penalty. But in the third he was dominant.
3. Fleury gave us a chance to win. Played very well. Kept us in it when we weren’t going well at the beginning of the game.
Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box.
1. Penalty Troubles
The Pens found themselves once again in penalty trouble, and, again, with penalties of the undisciplined variety. It’s understandable that Kris Letang would be frustrated after a no-call trip on him in the final minute in New Jersey on Tuesday night and another no-call on a blatant interference from Curtis McKenzie in the first period against the Stars. That boiled over into matching four-minute roughing minors for Letang and McKenzie. But Letang was assessed another unsportsmanlike penalty, just as he was Sunday against Detroit when he was given a game misconduct. Then, at the conclusion of the second period, Steve Downie took an unnecessary slashing penalty that put the Pens shorthanded to start the third. Thanks to some nice PK work, Pittsburgh was able to negate the penalties. And after taking the penalty, Letang was the Pens’ best player on the ice. He really channeled his energy the right way for the rest of the contest.
The game of hockey is a one of inches and bounces. Right now the Pens are getting zero bounces. The Stars opened the scoring when Brett Ritchie’s cross-crease pass went off of the stick of forward Beau Bennett and through the legs of his own goaltender. Late in the second period the Pens had a glorious chance to tie the contest when Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen was down on the ice and Daniel Winnik had an open net to shoot into. The puck, however, went off of his teammate Downie. Christian Ehrhoff hit the post with a shot, and Pittsburgh came inches away on many loose pucks. Those were the bounces, and they bounced in Dallas’ favor.
The Pens weren’t happy with their net-front presence in a 2-0 loss to the Devils. They focused their entire practice Wednesday on establishing a better presence and battle level at the net. Pittsburgh really showed some teeth against Dallas. Whether it was David Perron, Blake Comeau or Chris Kunitz, the Pens were furious competitors near the blue paint. It was Kunitz’s screen that resulted in the lone Pittsburgh goal. If they play with that same passion, they should reap benefits.