Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 4-1 loss against the Red Wings in Detroit.
* The Pens went into the first intermission tied 1-1 and into the second intermission down 2-1. For the most part, this was a tight game that the Pens just couldn't find a way to be on the right side of. With their loss and Montreal's win over Tampa Bay, they are still looking to clinch their 13th-straight playoff berth. But as Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said after the game, frustration is a useless emotion at this point.
The Pens' magic number to make the playoffs remains two. They have two games remaining in the regular season: Detroit again on Thursday and NY Rangers on Saturday, both at home.
While there are numerous clinching scenarios, the simplest one is this: a win in either of those games would cement Pittsburgh's spot. So the Pens are going to put this behind them and prepare for the rematch on Thursday as the home-and-home series shifts to Pittsburgh.
"We've just got to make sure we get ready for the next one," Sullivan said. "That's the mindset that we have to have. We've been in a playoff mode here for three weeks, four weeks. Nothing's changed in that regard. We still have to solidify a playoff spot and we've got to be ready for the next game."
* Detroit's top line was red-hot coming into the game: Dylan Larkin had a four-game goal-scoring streak (five goals), Anthony Mantha had a five-game point streak (5G-7A-12PTS) and Tyler Bertuzzi had a four-game point streak (3G-7A-10PTS). They're as good of a trio as the Pens have faced in recent memory.
And unfortunately for the Pens, they didn't have their top defensive pair to go up against them as Brian Dumoulin was ruled out with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day, while Kris Letang has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury.
Larkin, Mantha and Bertuzzi took advantage, putting the Pens on their heels with their speed and scoring all four of Detroit's goals. Bertuzzi and Mantha each tallied twice while Larkin earned three assists. They were the difference in the game, and the Pens will have to do a better job of limiting them Thursday night.
"They're just fast, I think," Pens goaltender Matt Murray said. "They see the ice well and they make good plays. You got to be stingy on them off the rush."
* While the Pens outshot the Wings 39-26, they only managed to muster one goal.
It came with about a minute left in the first, when the coaching staff loaded up with a line of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel to close out the period. They tied the score at 1-1 when Kessel finished off a 2-on-1 with Crosby. That started the line shuffling that the Pens did the rest of the night in an attempt to spark some offense. Unfortunately, they weren't really able to get anything going.
"They just executed. They got some chances and buried them and we didn't," Crosby said. "That's the difference. They got some Grade A's, we got some good looks and they did a better job of finishing them."
I talked to Crosby this morning about his line's recent lack of goals despite generating a lot of opportunities. He didn't make any excuses, saying they've had a few games where they couldn't get their chances to fall, and that they had to find a way to put the puck in the net, especially at this time of year.
As if he wasn't motivated enough before tonight, expect him to do everything within his power to jumpstart the Pens' offense on Thursday.