Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 5-4 overtime loss to Buffalo.
* Instead of finding ways to win, the Pens keep finding ways to lose. Tonight, after getting out to a 4-1 lead early in the second period, they watched the Sabres trim the deficit to 4-3 entering the second intermission. And while that wasn't ideal, the Pens were still ahead and had the opportunity to build on that in the third.
But instead of playing on their toes, they played on their heels. They let the surging Sabres completely dominate the third, with Buffalo outshooting them 12-1 at one point in during the first half of the period. Casey DeSmith put forth a heroic effort trying to weather the storm, but the Sabres were able to get the equalizer and eventually, the overtime winner.
"I think when you have a lead like that that halfway through the game you can't go into a 'we have to protect the lead mode,'" Jack Johnson said. "You got to stay after it. Keep going. There's way too much hockey left to be played. You can't go into a prevent defense. That usually prevents winning. We just have to do a better job of staying after it. I think we had them on the ropes there and you can't let them off of the ropes."
* What's been especially frustrating about this recent stretch of losses - the last three in particular - is that the Pens have been producing enough offense to win hockey games. They just aren't getting it done on defense. There's a myriad of reasons for that: they're making mental mistakes that are ending up in the back of their net, they're not supporting each other enough and tonight, they tried to force pucks up the wall too often as the game went on.
"That's a quick team, fast team," Johnson said. "We got to make better, cleaner plays and help each other out to get open."
What also makes it tough is that the Pens actually did a good job of getting out of their end zone during the first half of the game, scoring all three of their even-strength goals off the rush. They moved up the ice efficiently and effectively, pushing the Sabres back with pace and gaining the offensive zone with relative ease. If they had played like that for the entire 60 minutes, we'd probably be talking about a different result.
* The Pens had an opportunity to take a 5-1 lead in the second period on a lengthy power play that included 29 seconds of 5-on-3 time, and they created some magnificent chances that just wouldn't fall. Instead of seizing the momentum onto their side, the Sabres grabbed onto it and went on to score four unanswered goals.
"I thought the power play was really good there in the middle stretch," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We just didn't score. We had some Grade A chances, it just didn't go in the net for us. On a couple of the goals that they score, we make a couple of mistakes. It just seems like that's how it's going right now for us. There was a lot to like about our game, our effort. We certainly got to clean up some areas defensively, but there was also a lot to like about this game as well."