Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
* The Penguins just didn't have it tonight.
"I just don't think we played well enough," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We didn't play well enough to win. It's as simple as that."
The Penguins got off to what was arguably their slowest start of the season, as the Blue Jackets trapped them in their own zone for the majority of the first period.
"They put a lot of pressure on us," goalie Tristan Jarry said. "They retrieved a lot of pucks and it made it tough for us. It made it tough for us to break out. You see the pucks that they made us turn over, and they hurt us."
The Penguins managed to muster just three shots on goal, and were fortunate that one of them beat Columbus goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to make the score 1-1 entering the first intermission and keep them in a game they probably didn't deserve to be in at that point.
While the Penguins did get slightly better as the game went on, it wasn't enough. They didn't manage the puck well and got outworked and outplayed by a Blue Jackets team who capitalized on their mistakes.
"They were way better than us in the first period and they kept that momentum up," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "We were on our heels and then it's tough to come back every single game. We have to give them credit but we have to be better as a team and find a way to play a little better when we don't have our best game.
"We have to stick with it and you know what, it's 1-1 after the first and then we give them some easy goals. If we can just keep ourselves in those games it's a whole other story."
* One area that really hurt the Penguins tonight was special teams. The penalty kill is experiencing a slump after being lights out for a long stretch, giving up at least one goal in four straight games.
And tonight, they weren't able to come up with the timely kills, allowing two straight goals in the second period and letting Columbus turn a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 lead.
"We're not good enough right now on the penalty kill," Sullivan said. "We have to be better."
The power play wasn't opportunistic, either - going 0-for-4 on the night and failing to convert on some timely man-advantages. They had two in the second half of the third period, but couldn't seem to get anything going. If they score on either of those to get within a goal, we could be talking about a different result.
"They were all over us all over the ice," Hornqvist said. "5-on-5, 5-on-4, 4-on-5. They were the better team."
* The hits just keep on coming for the Penguins, who just cannot catch a break when it comes to injuries. Forward Bryan Rust suffered a lower-body injury during this morning's skate and was unable to play in the contest.
It was a big loss for the Penguins, considering that Rust has been playing the best, most consistent hockey of his career - with points in 11 of his last 14 games.
He's also had terrific chemistry on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel, with the three of them combining for FOURTEEN POINTS in Pittsburgh's 8-6 win over Vancouver on Wednesday.
The Penguins recalled Joseph Blandisi, who was unable to make it to Columbus in time for the game, which meant that defenseman Juuso Riikola had to move up and fill in at forward, something he's done a handful of times this season.
Overall, the Penguins have done an absolutely incredible job of adapting and adjusting whenever guys go down and having that next-man-up mentality. But they struggled in that regard tonight.
* With a goal and an assist, Guentzel extended his point streak to seven games - tying his career-long stretch set earlier this season from Oct. 5-18 (5G-3A).
It's pretty remarkable the chemistry Guentzel has found with each of the Penguins' franchise centers - first Sidney Crosby and now Malkin.