Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-3 loss against the New York Rangers at PPG Paints Arena.
* The Pens' defensive effort left a lot to be desired. Collective breakdowns led to several odd-man rushes and breakaways. It began right from the start when Kevin Hayes had a clear lane to the net just 20 seconds after the puck dropped. Luckily, goaltender Tristan Jarry was able to stone Hayes, and the rookie netminder bailed out his teammates on many other occasions. However, the Rangers converted on two such rushes and it was the difference in the game.
* It was a mixed bag for Jarry. After stopping Hayes' breakaway, he stopped Jimmy Vesey and Mats Zuccarello from point-blank. However, Jarry's performance was marred by goals from Boo Nieves and Zuccarello that should have been handle. Adding insult to the game was the fluky game-winning goal that went off of his own defenseman's skate. Jarry can't be blamed for this loss. But he didn't help steal the win either.
* The Pens outshot the Rangers, 44-29, but that wasn't the real story on the ice. The majority of New York's chances were of the high-quality variety. Scoring chances isn't an official stat, but the Rangers tilted that in their favor.
* One major bright spot for Pittsburgh was the play of their second line of Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel. The trio generated the highest amount of quality zone time and were rewarded with a goal from Kessel off of a nice feed by Guentzel. The threesome have had mixed results together this season, but appear to be trending up as of late.
* Adding on, Malkin was arguably the Pens' best player - with a stick tap to Patric Hornqvist. He was a force every time he touched the puck and if it weren't for the post - Malkin hit two of them - he could have ended up with a tally. He did finish with one assist, but the way he played tonight he deserved a better outcome.
"I thought he was really good," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He was a threat almost every shift. … He was driven and strong on pucks."
* The Pens lost the services of defenseman Justin Schultz. He was hurt after falling backward on top of Rick Nash during a rush. He couldn't put weight on his leg as he skated to the locker room. Though he made a brief return for the start of the second period, he left quickly and did not return.
"He's out with a lower-body injury," Sullivan said. "He will be re-evaluated tomorrow, but right now, his status is he's out."
* Pittsburgh was forced to play much of the game with five defensemen. The bulk of that burden fell on Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, who each led the club in ice time with 27:57 and 22:24 minutes each.
* The Pens were stymied by several posts in the game. Ryan Reaves blew down the near side for a breakaway - I didn't realize he had that kind of acceleration - and rang a shot off of the pipe. Olli Maatta and Malkin (2) would register their own pipe shots as well. This is a game of inches, and it went against Pittsburgh tonight.