It’s rare to lose a game when surrendering just one goal, but that’s exactly what happened to the Penguins on Wednesday night.
Clarke MacArthur’s goal with just 6:05 left in the third period would be all Toronto needed to squeak out a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh at Air Canada Centre, halting the Penguins’ win streak at eight games.
It’s Pittsburgh’s first loss since Jan. 11, and of course it isn’t a pleasant feeling to revisit. Still, they were pleased with the defensive effort they produced in the game, especially with how dissatisfied they were with their lackluster play against the Leafs Tuesday at CONSOL Energy Center, a 5-4 shootout win for the Penguins.
“We were obviously a lot better,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “But we were just saying, it’s funny how we probably didn’t deserve to even be in that game last night and we get two points out of it. Then tonight, we probably deserve better but we come out on the losing end.”
The odd-man rushes and breakaways that were so prevalent in Toronto’s game on Tuesday were nearly nonexistent tonight. Instead, the Penguins clamped down and played a much more physical game that limited time and space.
Pittsburgh finished with an impressive 43 checks to Toronto’s 36, with forwards Joe Vitale
and Chris Kunitz
recording six apiece and Orpik chipping in with five. On Tuesday, the hits were just 28-20 in favor of the Leafs.
“I just think it was a little tighter checking of a game,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “That nullified some of the speed on both teams. There wasn’t nearly as much room to play the game tonight. As a result, there weren’t as many scoring chances.”
The Penguins will continue on their four-game road stretch Saturday in Boston at 1 p.m.
Prior to Wednesday, Brent Johnson
’s last two starts didn’t go well as he got pulled from both.
But tonight, the veteran netminder showed those outings are clearly behind him as he produced a stellar effort against the Leafs, coming up with 23 saves and allowing just one tough goal.
“(I’m) obviously disappointed in the loss, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for myself,” Johnson said after the game. “I tried to simplify things out there and things were working pretty well tonight. I felt confident, felt good.”
However, Johnson’s teammates felt terrible that they couldn’t get him a win – especially with how well he played in the cage. And Bylsma said that was perhaps the toughest thing to swallow about this loss.
“It sucks,” forward Craig Adams
said. “He was great right from the beginning of the game and through the whole game. And for us not even to be able to get one for him, it’s disappointing.”
‘Disappointed’ was also the word Orpik used to describe the guys’ feelings about not helping their goalie out offensively.
“It’s disappointing, he’s a guy who’s well respected in the room,” he said. “Any time he’s in there you want to play well, especially when you see him battling that hard. Disappointing not to get any goals for him.”
But as Johnson said, he’s looking forward to building off his performance tonight.
“It was better than the previous two, so I’m looking forward to building on that one,” he said.
The Penguins got a tough disallowed goal call on Chris Kunitz
early in the second period that would have given Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead – which would have been crucial considering how tightly this game was played.
On the play, Evgeni Malkin
did a sweet spin-o-rama around Cody Franson right at the side of the net and threws a backhand to the cage that went off Kunitz’ skate (as he was losing his balance while being checked by a Leafs defender) and into the net.
But as it always seems to happen with Kunitz goals, the tally did not count as it was ruled a distinct kicking motion.