The Pens knew they would have a big test on Sunday in the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues, as they’re an incredibly tough team to play against with their stingy defense and heavy, physical style of play.
And while the Pens didn’t get the result they wanted in a 1-0 loss, overall they were satisfied with their performance as Pittsburgh was able to match the Blues’ tight-checking mentality. They just came up one goal short.
“We had the right mentality,” defenseman Matt Niskanen. “We knew how they were going to play. We were ready for it. I thought we did a pretty good job of doing what we wanted to.
“That’s a good game for us to play because that's how it's going to be in the postseason. Things are going to be tight and I thought we did a pretty good job today except for finding a goal.”
Both teams played tremendous defensive hockey and didn’t give up a lot of scoring chances. The only difference was that St. Louis was able to capitalize on one of theirs.
Credit has to be given to both goaltenders, who each played excellent in the game. Marc-Andre Fleury came up big for his team when they needed him to, finishing with 27 saves. At the other end, Brian Elliott – who got the nod today after Ryan Miller started Saturday in Philly – stopped 33 shots to get the shutout and was absolutely rock solid between the pipes, especially on the penalty kill.
A day after going 3-for-6 on the power play in their 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday, Pittsburgh went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage against St. Louis on Sunday.
“It would have been nice to get one on the power play,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “Obviously that’s the big story here. We battled and didn’t find a way to score.”
That included a couple of timely opportunities, most notably a huge 5-on-3 advantage that lasted for a total of 1:38 minutes. Pittsburgh also got another key chance down 1-0 with 4:44 left in regulation when Jay Bouwmeester was called for tripping Evgeni Malkin, but the Pens couldn’t get the tying goal.
The Pens struggled to gain the zone and get set up. And whenever they did, the Blues did a tremendous job of taking away the middle, keeping them to the perimeter and forcing them to take harmless shots from the outside that were easily turned aside by Elliott.
“I think we still have to do a better job of generating some chances, some rebounds around the net and having some more numbers there,” Crosby said. “It’s not as easy as just saying that. You have to battle in those areas. They’re a good team, they try to keep you out of there, but we still have to play around the net and rebounds and stuff like that that we need to get to.”
Meanwhile, while the Blues weren’t officially awarded with a power-play goal in the contest, netfront presence David Backes deflected Alex Steen’s shot past Fleury three seconds after a high-sticking call on Malkin expired.
The Pens dressed Deryk Engelland for the game and listed him as a forward. But with the Pens having played the day before and going up against such a tough opponent, Engelland ended up playing defense for the majority of the game. He rotated with Simon Despres next to Rob Scuderi.
“Our defensemen in certain circumstances played a lot of minutes the night before,” Bylsma said. “The heaviest seven D that we had with Deryk coming in and adding a physical presence back there, which I thought he did. Especially in the first period against their heavier forechecking lines.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo