The Penguins smacked into a brick wall on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center.
Veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere may be a backup now in his 16th NHL season, but he’s won a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and a Stanley Cup in his career. And he displayed that elite form against the Penguins, backstopping the Colorado Avalanche to a 1-0 shutout victory.
Aided by their seven power-play opportunities – none of which they could convert – the Penguins dominated the game in terms of puck possession and offensive zone time, holding the Avalanche to just 14 shots. The Penguins threw an obscene 72 pucks to the net – 34 recorded shots, 22 blocked and 16 missed. But they just could not get any of them past Giguere, despite their best efforts.
“He played really well,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “I still think we would have liked to find a way to get by him – obviously it’s tough when they don’t go in like that. But we did a lot of good things and probably deserved better. It’s how the game works sometimes. Sometimes you don’t deserve them and find a way to win. Tonight we deserved better and didn’t get the result we wanted. But did a lot of good things.”
This was the first game of the season Crosby did not record a point, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. He had a season-high seven shots and five attempts blocked, while Evgeni Malkin fired a team-high eight shots and also had five blocked.
While Colorado improves to a perfect 5-0 on the road, the Penguins suffered their first home loss of the season. They are now 7-2 overall.
The Pens spent eight of the game’s first 20 minutes on the power play, with the Avs taking four penalties throughout the first period. But they couldn’t convert any of those chances, missing an opportunity to bury the Avs early. The Pens then had three more chances they did not score on in the remaining two periods to finish the game 0-for-7 on the power play.
The Avs, whose penalty kill remains perfect on the road, blocked a lot of shots while down a man, finishing with 12 in that opening period alone (defenseman Jan Hejda, who logged the most shorthanded minutes on his team, had four of those). And whenever there were breakdowns or pucks got through, Giguere was spectacular in goal.
But despite all of that, the Pens were still creating chances with their puck movement and positioning. After all, they entered the game with the second-ranked power play in both the NHL and at home – so they didn’t want to stray too far from what had been working for them and try to do too much.
“I think the power play was pretty good,” Crosby said. “I thought we generated some good chances and had a number of opportunities, especially early on in the first period. It would have been nice to at least get one or two of those. But we stuck with things and didn’t get away from anything. Tried to play the same way all game. Unfortunately weren’t able to find a way to put one in.”
* The Penguins dressed rookie defenseman Olli Maatta for his ninth NHL game with the team. If Maatta plays any more games with the team, it will burn a full season of his three-year entry-level contract. Head coach Dan Bylsma said the Penguins have three days to decide whether or not to keep Maatta or return him back to his junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, as their next game isn’t until Friday against the New York Islanders.
“The possibility of us returning to full health on the back end very shortly will play into that as well,” Bylsma said. “The sheer numbers of defensemen that we have will play into it as well. He’s played in nine games not as a trial run. He’s played well. He’s earned to play his second, third to his ninth. He’s earned the right to play in every one of those games. He’s made it a tough decision. We’ll have three days to make a full evaluation of that situation and decide what that will be.”
* This was one of those games where you see just how valuable Paul Martin is as an all-around defenseman. He can – and does – play in every situation. Martin skated a game-high 28:09 minutes while getting the toughest matchups on the top pairing with Brooks Orpik, playing on the top power-play unit and being one of the first guys over the boards on the penalty kill.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo