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Aftermath: Avalanche 5, Penguins 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  Recap (AP) |  Photo Gallery | Game Highlights | Crosby

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The Penguins slid a little further in the standings as their recent skid hit seven losses in the last eight games. Against the Avalanche, the Penguins didn’t do a good enough job of keeping their net clear.

The frustrating thing for the team is that there isn’t one single area where the team is struggling. In every loss, something else isn’t working for the team. At different points during the stretch the special teams struggled. Other times the goaltending wasn’t there. Other occasions the offense didn’t show up.

The Penguins will come back home to Pittsburgh and regroup before heading to Philadelphia for a showdown with the Flyers. Maybe it will take an intense matchup with a divisional rival to pump some life into the Penguins. 
(AP) - David Jones had two goals and an assist, Andrew Raycroft made 21 saves and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Saturday.

Ryan Smyth and Wojtek Wolski each had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, who have won three straight.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and assist apiece and Jordan Staal had a short-handed goal for the Penguins, who have lost seven of their last eight.

Pittsburgh goalie Dany Sabourin had 21 saves on 25 shots before being pulled in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury to start the third. Fleury stopped six shots.

Evgeni Malkin drives in a power-play score in the first period (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Crosby-Malkin Connection
Head coach Michel Therrien reunited Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The move paid off and the duo hooked up to score two goals for the Penguins. The first was on a power play when Crosby made a great pass to Malkin, who one-timed the puck into the cage. On the second score, Malkin fed Crosby, who sneaked a shot through Andrew Raycroft’s five-hole.

What Didn't Work: Protecting the House
Colorado set up shop in the Pittsburgh crease all day. The Avalanche’s presence in front of the net enabled them to score five goals in the game. Colorado re-directed a puck into the net by Ryan Smyth in front of the cage. On the other goals, Colorado either interfered with the vision of Pittsburgh’s goaltenders or the team pounced on rebounds close in on net. The Penguins didn’t protect their house and it cost them the game.
Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal in 11 games with a power-play tally late in the first period. Malkin added an assist when he made a great cross-ice pass to setup linemate Sidney Crosby’s team-leading 17th goal of the year. Malkin recorded four shots on goal and had a couple pucks sail just wide. He looked rejuvenated playing with Crosby and can build on that performance.
The Avalanche struck first midway through the first period. Milan Hejduk carried the puck into the Penguins zone and then pulled up above the near circle. Ryan Smyth entered the zone and skated hard to the Pittsburgh net, pulling the Penguins defense back and creating some open ice in the slot for Wojtek Wolski. Hejduk sent the puck to Wolski, who threw the puck on net. The puck caromed off the body of Smyth and past Pittsburgh goaltender Dany Sabourin. Colorado 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Evgeni Malkin snapped a 10-game goal-less streak with a power-play score towards the end of the first period. The Avalanche were called for too many men on the ice. The first 1:50 of the man-advantage was ugly. Pittsburgh was barely in the Colorado zone and its passes were off the mark. However, the Penguins talent can strike at any time. Malkin carried the puck across the blue line and flipped the puck to Sidney Crosby on the far boards. Malkin then sneaked to the middle of the near circle. Crosby skated the puck closer to the goal before sending a laser pass through the heart of Colorado’s box that Malkin one-timed into the goal to tie the game. Pittsburgh 1, Colorado 1.

David Jones made a great play along the boards and then scored a goal on the ensuing possession to reclaim the lead for Colorado. Jones got his body in front of Sabourin’s shot along the glass. Jones then made a centering pass and worked his way around the goal. John-Michael Liles received Jones’ pass and put a shot on the net. Jones picked up the rebound and deposited it into the cage. Colorado 2, Pittsburgh 1.

Crosby scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season to notch the game at 2-2. Malkin gained the blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to Crosby. Maxime Talbot, who was moved to the top line in the middle of the first period, skated hard to the net and drew the attention of Colorado defenseman Scott Hannan. That gave Crosby plenty of ice and time to get off a quick shot between the five-hold of Avalanche netminder Andrew Raycroft. Pittsburgh 2, Colorado 2.

The Avalanche retook the lead on Wolski’s 11th tally of the year. Wolski skated around a check by Malkin in the slot and roofed the puck into the goal. Hejduk was standing right in the crease with Brooks Oprik trying to clear him. The traffic obstructed Sabourin’s view and he couldn’t properly set for the shot. Colorado 3, Pittsburgh 2.

The Avalanche held the puck in the Penguins zone for over a minute. The exhausted Pittsburgh unit could not prevent Colorado from adding to its lead. Every clear attempt by the Penguins was held in by the Avalanche. Colorado even managed to get a full change against the gassed Penguins unit. Eventually, Jordan Leopold scored on a slap shot with Cody McLeod providing a screen in front. Colorado 4, Pittsburgh 2.

Jordan Staal made a great individual effort get his second goal in as many games while the Penguins were shorthanded. He started by picking off a pass in the Penguins zone. He raced the other way with Crosby. Staal gained the blue line and then drifted into the high slot before unleashing a wicked wrister over the shoulder of Raycroft. Colorado 4, Pittsburgh 3.

After giving up a short-handed goal, the Avalanche notched a power-play score on the same power play. Jones tallied his second of the game when he picked up a loose rebound in the crease and poked it into the cage. Colorado 5, Pittsburgh 3.
Michel Therrien reunited the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the top line. The duo skated with Maxime Talbot. Jordan Staal centered between Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke. The last two lines were rotated between forwards Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Godard, Tim Wallace and Chris Minard. Alex Goligoski and Mark Eaton were healthy scratches in the contest.

I love the way the Talbot-Crosby-Malkin line responded after Colorado took a 4-2 lead. On the ensuing shift, the trio worked the puck along the boards and generated a few scoring opportunities. They dominated the shift and cut into the Avalanche’s momentum. The combination played well in the game and I’d like to see the combination get an extended look over the next couple of games.

Dany Sabourin was replaced following the second period by Marc-Andre Fleury. Sabourin made 21 saves in the first two periods but allowed four goals. Therrien has switched goalies in the past in an attempt to change the momentum of the game.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 20-19-4 on the year, with an 11-10-2 mark on the road. Pittsburgh is 1-7-0 in its last eight games. 

> Ryan Smyth notched his 14th goal of the year midway through the first period to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. The Penguins tied the match, 1-1, on Evgeni Malkin’s power-play goal late in the first. The Avalanche regained the edge on David Jones’ seventh tally of the year 2:06 into the second period. Sidney Crosby scored his team-leading 17th score of the year to pull even in the game, 2-2. Colorado added a pair to increase its lead, 4-2, on goals by Wojtek Wolski (11) and Jean-Micheal Leopold (6). Jordan Staal scored a short-handed goal to cut into the lead, 4-3, but Colorado answered with a power-play tally on the same advantage at 8:28 of the third period.

> Evgeni Malkin scored a goal and an assist against Colorado to extend his NHL lead in points to 65 (16G-49A). Malkin’s 49 assists are a league best.

> Sidney Crosby recorded a goal and assist against the Avalanche. Crosby now leads the Penguins with 17 goals on the year. He is second in the league in scoring with 55 points (17G-38A) and his 38 assists are second (tied) most in the league (as of the afternoon).

> Jordan Staal scored his second goal in as many games with a short-handed score. Staal has 13 tallies on the season.
1. David Jones, COL
2. Wojtek Wolski, COL
3. Sidney Crosby, PIT
“We need some big plays. It’s not going to take one
guy. It’s going to take everybody. Everyone
has to step their game up a bit.”
- Sidney Crosby


Author: Sam Kasan

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