Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
* The hits just keep on coming for the Penguins, who cannot catch a break when it comes to injuries. I wrote that line after Friday's 5-2 loss in Columbus when Bryan Rust suffered a lower-body injury in that morning's skate, and it was applicable again tonight after Brian Dumoulin suffered a lower-body injury after his first shift of the game and did not return.
"We've got to go with the guys that we have who are healthy," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We think we're capable. We just got to make sure we play a solid team game. If we do that, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win every night."
The Penguins did that for the most part tonight despite having to play the majority of the game with just five defensemen. They were able to keep the Blues to the perimeter for long stretches of the game. For example, after Justin Faulk opened the scoring 7:52 into the first, the Blues didn't record a shot on goal for the rest of the period.
But as the game wore on, the Penguins started to wear out - and the Blues were able to turn what was a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission into a 5-2 final.
"I thought they fought hard," Sullivan said. "I thought we made some fatigued mistakes in the third period that maybe we wouldn't have made if we had a guy like Dumo. It's tough when we lose one of our top-pair guys because he plays so many minutes for us. So we're asking guys on a back-to-back night to step up and I thought we struggled a little bit at the beginning of the third period."
Overall, it was a much better effort compared to Friday's 5-2 loss in Columbus, where Sullivan said the team didn't play "hard enough or smart enough." And it's truly remarkable how the Pens continue to remain competitive through all of the injuries.
Tonight, they faced the defending Stanley Cup champions on the second night of a back-to-back set on the road without Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad, and were still right in the game.
* The Penguins' special teams are continuing to cost them games. The penalty kill gave up a power-play goal for the fifth straight game, while the power play went 0-for-2. Both of those chances came when St. Louis held a mere one-goal lead.
"We've got to fix the penalty kill, because it's losing games for us right now," Sullivan said. "The special teams has to be better. Our power play has to be better as well. We had a couple of opportunities on our power play and we didn't get the job done in those two scenarios. I think our special teams on both sides has to improve. I think that will help our overall game. 5-on-5, for the most part, I thought we had a pretty solid effort. We just have to keep working at it, that's all."
* After a hot start to his NHL career, scoring three goals and five points in his first four games, Sam Lafferty experienced the inevitable slump that happens to rookies adjusting to the speed and skill of this level.
He ended up going goalless in his next 15 appearances with Pittsburgh. But tonight, he got back on the scoresheet in dramatic fashion with a sick highlight-reel goal.
The play started with Lafferty using his speed to blow past former Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot, sending him falling to the ice. He went in alone on Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, deked to his forehand and tucked the puck into the open net.
"I think it's always nice to see it go in and contribute," Lafferty said. "It's just nice to help the team."
Kris Letang was the Penguins' other goal scorer to give him tallies in three straight games.