Saturday, January 31, 2009

Langenbrunner...Pens lose

At this point in the season, scoring three goals against a tight defensive team like the New Jersey Devils should be enough. Having a 3-1 lead with 11 minutes left in the game should definitely be enough. Even being up 3-2 when the other team pulls their goalie in the dying seconds is usually a recipe for 2 points.

But not tonight, courtesy of Jamie Langenbrunner, who got a fortunate bounce of Ryan Whitney's skates with 31 seconds left in regulation to earn the Devils a point. Then collecting a fancy pass by Travis Zajac and depositing the one-timer by Marc-Andre Fleury to steal the second point. Winners of now eight straight, the Devils are hot. They worked for their bounces and got them.

  • Total shots on the game were 43-16 in favor of New Jersey. Even worse, if you count shots that missed the net plus shots that were blocked, the Devils outfired the Pens 65-22. Pretty indictive of the difference in puck possession and where the game was played for the most part. Marc-Andre Fleury was solid, but when the other team throws 65 shots at you, it's not unreasonable to think that at least four will end up in the net for some reason or another.
  • Further on that point: the Penguins dressed 18 skaters, the standard in the NHL. 14 of them registered either 0 or 1 shot on goal. The only exceptions were Pascal Dupuis (4 shots), Evgeni Malkin (4 shots, 1 goal), Max Talbot (2 shots, one which was a deflection goal) and Chris Minard (2 shots). That's just not going to cut it.
  • Malkin and Sidney Crosby each registered a goal and an assist and were dangerous with their scoring chances. But both suffered painful moments that could have been injuries--Crosby blocked a shot that appeared to hit his hand/arm and Geno impaled his torso with his own stick (which any hockey player will tell you how much that sucks). Both got over it, but still some scary moments.
  • Petr Sykora, rightly lauded as a leader and a rare forward not named Crosby or Malkin that will contribute on the score board really hurt his team tonight. He took a hooking call in the neutral zone with 8:05 left. Bad enough, but then Sykie--a veteran who should know better--mouthed off to the official who felt it was egregious enough to tack on 2 more minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Sure Brendan Shanahan scored four seconds after the penalties were called, but the Pens still had to kill two more minutes while the momentum had clearly shifted to the Devils. Not a good play by Sykora...Bite your tongue and skate to the box.
  • Almost all of the Penguins defensemen had a bad moment, none worse than usually reliable Rob Scuderi....When Bill Thomas won a huge faceoff cleanly in the defensive zone in the final minute; Scuds flubbed the puck, the Devils applied pressure and Whitney had to scramble to the front of the net. The puck bounces off of him and in for the tying goal.
  • The USS Hal Gill and rookie Alex Goligoski were healthy scratches but Mark Eaton and Phillipe Boucher played. Just pointing that out.
  • Overall just not enough puck possession. The Devils outworked the Penguins all night, and especially after Sid and Geno gave the Pens a two goal lead it looked like the boys just sat back on it too much and relied a little too much on their ability to block shots and Fleury's ability to bail them out.

And, well that's that. It's not a night to be proud of, but the Penguins did play the current #2 team in the conference (and a division opponent at that) on the road and took a point away from the game. Since the AS break they have 3 out of a possible 4 points and both games were against teams ahead of them in the standings. If you look at it that way, doesn't seem so bad, now does it?

But it sure would be a lot better if the boys can go to Toronto and make it 5 out of 6 points tomorrow. If they put this behind them and go at it, should be alright. It'll be a Hockey Night in Canada, Matt Cooke's suspension is over and Mathieu Garon (who won 24 games last year for a weak Edmonton team) ought to be in the net for the first time. There's a lot of angles for the Pens to have a shot in the arm. Let's see if they get it.

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