GLENDALE, Arizona – After an impressive 4-1 victory in Los Angeles Thursday night, the Pens were hoping for a two-game sweep in the first-ever Mothers’ Trip.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix Coyotes spoiled that attempt with a 3-1 victory at Jobing.com Arena Saturday night.
The Penguins knew that this would be the type of game that would unfold against the Coyotes, a team that likes to shutdown and play a strict defensive style. Opportunities were few, but Phoenix made more plays with their chances.
“We had some good chances,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We didn’t capitalize on a few good ones. They play a pretty tight game so if you don’t cash in on your chances and they get a couple, get the lead, they shut it down pretty well in the third.”
The Coyotes had goals from Mike Ribeiro, Zbynek Michalek and Radim Vrbata. Mike Smith was the game’s No. 1 star and finished with 23 saves.
“We had some good looks,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “A few that (Smith) made some really nice saves on. He looked out of position on a few and still managed to save it. That shows why he’s on the Olympic team.”
Pittsburgh’s lone goal came from Evgeni Malkin.
The Pens tried to mount a comeback in the third period, but managed only five shots as penalties and Phoenix’s defense clamped down.
“They’re tight games, tough games,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “There wasn’t a lot of scoring opportunities. There weren’t a lot of chances for us. We could have shot the puck more, but we’re in a one-goal game. We expect these games to be like that and those are the types of games we need to be able to play.”
There was a scary moment in the game late in the third period when defenseman Olli Maatta was struck in the face by a puck. But all signs immediately following the game were positive.
“It’s his fourth puck in the face in five days,” Bylsma said. “The report I have is that he’s fine. It was scary seeing him get another one there.”
Evgeni Malkin’s goal against the Coyotes was the 614th point of his NHL career, moving him into fifth place on the team’s all-time scoring list and past Ron Francis.
Defenseman Kris Letang missed his second-straight game with an illness. Letang also missed the Penguins’ 4-1 win in Los Angeles Thursday night.
Former Pens defenseman Zbynek Michalek faced his former team for the first time since Pittsburgh traded Michalek back to Phoenix at the 2012 NHL Draft.
Michalek entered the contest with an 83-game goal-less drought. He snapped that drought with a goal in the second period when his slap shot skidded through traffic and into the goal.
“It’s been almost two years,” Michalek said. “It felt good. Hopefully, I don’t have to wait that long for the next goal.”
By the way, Michalek’s last goal before Saturday night was March 5, 2012 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team he scored against that night? The Phoenix Coyotes.
Author: Sam Kasan