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Slow Start Dooms Penguins – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Slow Start Dooms Penguins

In the wake of Saturday’s scintillating victory over the Rangers, I was afraid the Penguins might be too fired up for the start of Game 3. I envisioned one of those first periods where the Pens come out in a ball of fury and outshoot the opposition, say 17-3, but don’t score any goals. Then the other club gets a lucky bounce and it’s all downhill from there.

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I needn’t have worried. Oh, one of the teams registered three first-period shots, alright. Our Penguins.

“I thought we overpassed the puck early in the game, no question,” Pens coach Mike Johnston said. “We came in on the attack, we had lanes, and we took the pass back instead of the play ahead. That has to be a shot choice instant. You can’t look, you can’t wait, it’s gotta be right to the net.”

While the locals sputtered, the Rangers pounced like a leopard spotting a gnu in the thicket. Nine minutes in, Game 2 villain Carl Hagelin beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury through the wickets on a partial breakaway, courtesy of a botched line change. At 11:07 of the second period Chris Kreider swatted a carom off the end boards past a helpless Fleury to extend New York’s lead to 2-0.

Meanwhile, home team heroics were few and far between. In the waning minutes of the opening period Sidney Crosby banged a shot off the iron from close range. Midway through the second Max Lapierre made a dazzling move to pull the puck around a prone defender, only to see his sweeping wrister coolly turned aside by Henrik Lundqvist. Late in the frame Fleury robbed Derek Stepan with a spectacular double-pad save on yet another breakaway.

“An unbelievable save,” Stepan marveled.

Down by two, the Pens finally displayed some juice in the third period. With seven minutes remaining Patric Hornqvist whacked the puck past Lundqvist from the slot to cap an extended cycle by the Crosby line. Fully engaged, the Pens pressed for the tying goal. But “King Henrik” and his mates held firm.

The loss makes Wednesday night’s Game 4 at the CONSOL a must-win for the Pens. No way the black and gold can return to New York down 3-1 and expect to survive.

Let’s hope they’re up to the task.

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9 Comments

  1. jim's Gravatar jim
    April 23, 2015 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Hi Rick
    Great game tonight. We played as best we could given the team we have. 2-1 loss in Overtime is nothing to be ashamed of.All four games were close.But in all reality the Rangers are bigger,faster,stronger and younger as a team.They don’t have a Crosby or a Malkin,but their next 18 players as a group are simply better than us. As you said earlier,Hockey is a Team sport.One or two star players can not win a cup by themselves.
    Hayes, who scored the winning goal is listed at 6 ft 5 inches, 220 + pounds. Rick Nash is almost the same.Their defense is big. In the future the Pens will need to get four or 5 of these type of large,skilled players if they are ever going to win the Cup again.Watch any of the Western series and you will see what physical Hockey is all about.It is rough, fast and skilled. This league is not getting softer….We are ! not a good sign.
    Big changes in the off season. The core will have to change !

  2. jim's Gravatar jim
    April 21, 2015 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    I predicted the Rangers in 5 games in an earlier column.I was hoping to be wrong.But the Penguins, except for the last period of the last game,have not demonstrated an ability to dominate their opponents.Flower has been the only reason the Pens have gotten this far. Many of the penalties taken in this series by the Pens were not called for.Our team LACKS discipline and composure. Do not blame the refs! It is our players fault. Not the Coach. Not the GM. The players themselves! As a team we were out matched by the Rangers from the start of this series and to give them all these power play opportunities is foolish.Yes we need to score goals to win,and our star players have not delivered as hoped for the past 4 years come play off time,but we will never win unless we stay out of the penalty box.
    I think that the superior depth and speed of the Ranger team is frustrating our team and this is the reason for most of these needless penalties.If we had a faster, larger,more skilled line up through out our team, these foolish penalties would be far fewer.
    You are correct Rick in that we must win game 4… We need to stay out of the box to have any hope to accomplish this.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 22, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      You make a lot of good points. Your observation that the Rangers are bigger, faster and deeper than we are was spot on.

      It sure doesn’t help that Letang’s out and Malkin appears to be playing hurt. But as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Rangers are a better team.

  3. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    April 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    My favorite play was the first shot on net.. with 5:00 mins. left and it was a slap shot dump in from just past center red ,for a line change.
    It was very hard too watch and I can’t even cheer for this embrassement of a NHL team.
    Poor Malkin, injured and has to play with useless wingers in Comeau and Perron.
    Fleury I guess is now expecpted to not only stand on his head and not let in more then two goals( ’cause our “superstar Sid” can’t score) but MAF should now try taking shots from 200ft. away!! Might get more then 3 in the first Wed.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 22, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Hey pen’s 4ever,

      Yeah, it’s been painful to watch at times. The Pens just don’t seem to be able to put together a full 60 minutes of hockey. At least they didn’t in Games 1 and 3. Playing in spurts won’t cut it in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

      You and I differ on our opinion of Crosby. I know he’s not lighting it up like he did in his glory days. But in my opinion, Sid’s elevated his game in the last month and is trying as hard as he can to carry the team.

      Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have much help these days. Especially with Letang out, Malkin injured and/or in a funk, and secondary scoring about as rare as a Morgan Silver Dollar.

      Fleury’s been mostly outstanding. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have much room for error.

  4. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    April 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I find myself wishing they could play all seven games in New York.

    I’ve been hard on this team, for several years now. Sometimes unfairly so. Part of me keeps repeating “they should have known better.” I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s too late to fret about it now. But, I do hope, in the future, this team finds itself with a coach who doesn’t bring yet another “system” for this team to learn, but rather lets the talent come to the fore by simply encouraging them to play hockey.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 21, 2015 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

      Amen. Actually a big AMEN.

      Tailoring the Pens to play a puck possession system has, in part, led to our demise. We’ve morphed into a pale imitation of the Red Wings, who—by the way—have won a grand total of three playoff series since losing to us in the ’09 Finals. Yeah, that’s a team I want to emulate (not).

      Somewhere along the line, having forwards with the size and strength to win puck battles and dictate play in traffic became a bad thing. Ditto defensemen who can bang and play sound defense.

      Bleep puck possession. If you build a team that’s strong in all facets of the game, you won’t need to worry about possessing the puck. You’ll just do it.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        April 22, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        I’m going off on a tangent to draw a football analogy.

        Back in the ‘80s, the AFC was dominated by teams built around high-flying passing attacks like Denver and Miami. John Elway and the “Three Amigos.” Dan Marino and the “Magic Markers.”

        They were media darlings—all glitz and glamour. Neither team had a running game. Neither had an especially good defense. They simply outscored opponents.

        Then these heavily hyped but flawed teams would go to the Super Bowl and get crushed by NFC foes like Chicago, New York and Washington. Teams that played tough, hard fundamental football. Teams that had balance.

        The same goes for hockey.

        • 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
          April 23, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          I’ll see your BIG AMEN, and I raise you a DOUBLE BIG AMEN!


            

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