The Pittsburgh Penguins are depleted, pressing, and feeling the heat. And it was evident Thursday night.
Despite garnering seven power play opportunities, Pittsburgh fell to the Los Angeles Kings 3-2, extending their losing streak to three. They have now lost six of their last eight games, which is utterly disturbing with the playoffs nearing.
Pushing their win streak to five, the Kings’ kept Pittsburgh from clinching a playoff spot, and the once indestructible Pens’ lineup just can’t generate enough quality scoring chances against these Western Conference opponents of late.
Allowing a first period power play goal to Kings’ forward Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh found themselves down by two, courtesy of an Alec Martinez slapper at the 6:59-mark of the second. Yet, just 34-seconds after Martinez’s tally, Pens’ forward Chris Kunitz buried home his 33rd goal of the season, placing him one behind the team-leader, captain Sidney Crosby.
With 4:18 left in the second, Pittsburgh was able to deadlock the score at two off an unlikely player – Taylor Pyatt. Snapping a shot that ricocheted up-and-over Kings’ goaltender Martin Jones’ head, the Pens’ quickly recovered from being down a 2-0 hole, to tying the contest up. However, the period didn’t end the way Pittsburgh probably wanted it to.
Crashing into the endboards awkwardly right before the second intermission, forward Marcel Goc needed help getting off the ice, and was favoring his left foot. Playing the role of third-line center with forward Evgeni Malkin sidelined, Goc’s injury did not look good, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss the rest of the season.
Nothing’s confirmed, but I’m preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. It’s just unbelievably frustrating and unfathomable. There’s no halt on the injury front.
Heading into the third period all squared at one, Pittsburgh saw Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty slap a flickering biscuit past goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, which proved to be the game-winner.
Execution was Pittsburgh’s biggest issue.
When you get seven man-advantage chances, and fail to capitalize on every one of them, it makes it difficult to collect the two points. And they’re one for their last 13 on the power play over the last three games.
Zatkoff was okay. But that’s it; he wasn’t spectacular, he just made the saves he needed to. It just wasn’t enough. Stopping 29-of-32 shots, Zatkoff saw his record fall to 12-5-1, and his two-game winning streak come to a close.
With his assist on Kunitz’s second period goal, Crosby is now four points shy of 100 (96), and has the most helpers in the NHL (62). Crosby has not amassed 100-or-more points since the 2009-10 campaign, and he’s the clear front-runner for the Hart Trophy Award.
Pittsburgh has now fallen nine points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins, and seem destined for the second-seed. Even though Montreal is trailing them by six, they’ve also played two more games than Pittsburgh.
We’ll see if Friday’s result will be any better, however, it’s another tough matchup on the road against a desperate hockey team (Columbus Blue Jackets).
The game can be seen on the ROOT Network, and is set to start at 7 p.m.