The Pens surrendered just one goal to the Capitals on Wednesday at the Verizon Center. But that lone tally would be all Washington would need to secure two points in the standings, as they held on for a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh.
With the loss, the Pens have now dropped six straight decisions. But if they continue to play the way they did tonight, a win for this Pittsburgh squad is imminent.
“I know that’s how we’ve got to keep playing,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’ll play another 40 just like that one.”
What Bylsma deemed “a hard-fought game” was especially important because of how unhappy the team was with their effort in a 5-1 loss to Ottawa last night.
“You can say there was nothing to build on last night, but we obviously showed up pretty well tonight,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “It was just one of those things where we’ve just got to keep giving the same effort.”
It was yet another night where the Pens played the way they both wanted – and needed – to play, but the game came down to what was essentially one costly mistake.
Pittsburgh set the tone in the first period, with urgency and desperation oozing from every shot, stride and hit. Unfortunately, Jason Chimera finished off a 3-on-1 rush that stemmed from a Pens turnover with 4:35 left in the opening frame.
“(The puck) doesn’t seem to find the back of the net right now,” forward Pascal Dupuis
said. “It seems like every little mistake we make, it ends up in the back of our net. Today feels like one step towards the right direction. We’ll get it back.”
The Pens held the Caps to just three shots in the second and dominated on the cycle in the offensive zone. And though Washington gained the momentum for some scary stretches in the third, the Pens pressed relentlessly – especially in the closing minutes – to force overtime, but just couldn’t solve Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun for the tying goal.
All in all, it was a physical, tight-checking game spent mostly in the offensive zone, with the Pens outshooting their opponent (30-21) for the eighth straight game. And when the Caps did control the play and the momentum, Marc-Andre Fleury
came up huge for his team.
While a six-game losing streak is tough to wrap our heads around, the Pens can build off this effort come Friday in Florida. They know they need to start scoring, but know that as long as they control their own effort, the bounces will start going their way.
“There are times when you’re searching for a win and coming out of a losing streak where you have to earn it,” Bylsma said. “You have to earn it maybe with two or three games. And this one was a game where there’s a lot there that we earned. We played hard and battled, but didn’t come up with a goal.
“Certainly getting shut out and losing a game 1-0 is not something we’d like. But we earned a lot tonight. We’re going to keep playing that way and we’ll get wins playing just like that.”
Forward Dustin Jeffrey
made his return to the lineup Wednesday, his first NHL game action since Nov. 3 at San Jose.
He had been on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 11 while continuing to rehab a knee injury suffered March 25, 2011 vs. Philadelphia.
Jeffrey logged 13:59 minutes while centering the second line between Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy
. Jeffrey got a fine chance late in the game when his sharp-angle shot from the side of the open cage went wide.
Defenseman Paul Martin
played after missing last night's game due to illness.