In the first game of a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins’ lack of effort resulted in a 4-0 final and celebration for the cross-state fans in their own barn.
Flyers’ forward Matt Read accounted for two goals, while Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavailer added one each, in Steve Mason’s, relatively easy, shutout performance against the Penguins.
The Penguins were outshot each and every period resulting in a 40-to-25 shot ratio. Without two-of-three of the team’s top goal scorers – Kunitz and Neal – the Penguins’ couldn’t muster any offense. The biggest positive for the Pens was that without their 20 blocked shots, the game could have been much worse for Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins fell behind in the first period 2-0, despite Fleury’s excellent efforts to keep his team in the game. Read and Hartnell each placed a “shooters shot” past the Pens’ netminder, goals in which “Flower” couldn’t do much about.
While Fleury’s efforts were on par during the first, the team in front of him didn’t give him any help, resulting in only seven shots, six giveaways, and going 0-for-2 on the powerplay. While the Flyers 12 shots, zero giveaways, and one-for-two on the powerplay, resulted in the Pens’ coaching staff heading to the locker room hoping that their team will show some signs of life in the second period.
The second period didn’t prove to be any better. Still being out shot in the period 17-11 with five more giveaways, and, once again, getting blanked twice on the powerplay. This proved to be the dagger in the heart of the Penguins with Lecavailer scoring six minutes into the period and Read popping in his second of the game with 17-seconds left in the second stanza.
In the third period, Pittsburgh seemed to have even less fight in them. Once again getting out shot – in what seemed to be a “ho-hum” kind of period – 11-to-7, and 40-25 for the entire game. Turnovers continued to add up totaling 14 giveaways for the game and the number-one ranked powerplay got shut down, resulting in an zero-for-five on the games’ score sheet. And the icing on the cake for the Pens, was not having an answer for Flyers’ forward Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo was electric. Heckling the Pens’ players all game long.
From the drop of the puck, any fan could tell that either the Penguins’ heart or head was not in this one, which is ultimately surprising when they’re playing their biggest rival. One could argue that the Pens’ were without two of their biggest scorers for this tilt, but the team has been battling the injury bug all season, and skaters being called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton play the same system in the AHL as they would for the big squad.
There was no excuse for the lack of effort and heart shown by the Penguins playing against their rivals.
These are the types of games that should be played with a playoff mentality. The team never really tested Mason. Pens’ players passed up chances to shoot by opting to try and make a pretty pass. Almost every time the Penguins’ gained the offensive zone, the puck carrier had no support or good outlet to move the puck.
Turnovers in those key areas just inside-and-outside the blue lines forced the Pens to defend multiple odd-man breaks, and play in their own zone more than they needed to. And rarely did a player get to the top of the blue paint to try and score that hard working, dirty goal.
While Evgeni Malkin seemed to have jump in his legs for the first two periods, he was held to only one shot, and Sidney Crosby held to only two – one of which was a direct shot off a faceoff. If the Pens want to climb out of this funk of horrid play they have been in lately, then 87 and 71 must become the leaders they have been in the past when faced with adversity.
Blue collar – bring your hard-hat type work ethic from everyone top-to-bottom is the best way to satisfy Pittsburgh’ fans, and get back to their usual winning ways.
Let’s hope they show up Sunday.
The game tomorrow can be seen on NBC, and is set to start at 12:30 p.m.