The Pens dropped their fourth straight game in a 3-1 setback against the New Jersey Devils at CONSOL Energy Center Saturday night.
Despite what the scoreboard says, the Pens have played solid hockey during their current stretch. Against New Jersey, the team had a dominant first period and left with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Pittsburgh outshot the Devils, 42-27, and played the majority of the contest in the offensive zone. The game was very similar to Friday’s contest in which the Pens had a strong start and solid game, but dropped a 3-1 decision.
“Yeah, that was a little bit of déjà vu. Kind of the momentum and even the way they scored the goals was a little bit similar,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “And then taking a little bit of a move off the shorthanded goal, where they scored that goal and took momentum for a little bit. We didn’t get the breaks. We did lose that momentum.
“That certainly has been the feeling of the last two games, where a mistake is costing a goal and the momentum. But in terms of the opportunities to score goals, a lot of them have to be created the way we are creating them. Unfortunately, we’re fighting to really score goals. And when we need them or take a two-goal lead or in those situations where we are playing well and doing the right things, we haven’t been able to find that goal that puts us over the edge. I don’t think it’s going to change how we’re going to keep trying to push forward with trying to get that goal or get that momentum that we need. Right now, we’re going to do away with that feeling of one mistake costing us a goal.”
“It’s always just frustrating when that happens, especially when we had some home games,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “It’s tough to lose here. There’s still a lot of hockey left and I think that’s something we’ve learned with time. Just got to be ready for the next one and get back on the winning side.”
In hockey, sometimes you can do all the right things and not get the bounces to go your way. Right now the Pens are in one of those situations, playing well enough to win but not getting the results.
However, this is a veteran group that has gone through tough stretches before.
“That’s hockey,” forward James Neal
said. “You’re going to make mistakes and the other team is going to score goals. It’s just that we need to come back and score goals for ourselves. One goal is not cutting it. We know that. ‘Flower’ is playing great. It’s just those little bounces that are there that we haven’t been able to capitalize on.
“But at the same time, you can’t hang your head. You’ve got to stay up and stay positive, because if you’re negative and you get in those slumps and you keep your head down, you know you’re not going to get better. So it starts with one goal and one practice, and we’ll go from there.”
The Penguins played a strong opening 20 minutes against the Devils. Pittsburgh had a 12-3 edge in shots and 1-0 lead on Evgeni Malkin
’s goal five minutes into the first period.
All the momentum was flowing in the Pens’ direction after that dominant first period. The team then went on a power play eight minutes into the second period and was looking to add on to their lead.
However, that was the turning point in the game. Adam Henrique took a pass and went in for a shorthanded breakaway. His initial shot was stopped by Fleury, but before Fleury could cover the puck, Henrique corralled the rubber and snapped it into the netting to tie the game at 1-1.
The referee seemed to blow the whistle on the play. However, after a review the crew allowed the goal to count.
“I thought I (had the puck),” Fleury said. “I thought I closed my pads and put my hand down quick. Then I heard the whistle, so I didn’t move, either, after that.”
“I think the explanation was they got it right,” Bylsma said. “They may not have gotten it right initially, but they got it right.”
The Pens had to adjust their lineup with Jordan Staal
out of the game following a knee-to-knee collision with Rangers forward Mike Rupp Friday night. Pascal Dupuis
moved to center with Matt Cooke
and Craig Adams
playing the wings. The trio was used in a defensive, checking line role against the Devils line of Dainius Zubrus-Patrik Elias-Petr Sykora.
The 27-year-old Fleury appeared in his 400th career NHL game.
Author: Sam Kasan