Pittsburgh Penguins Shut Out by Nashville Predators 4-0


The Pittsburgh Penguins’ season continued on its recent rollercoaster as the team followed up their recent overtime win against the New Jersey Devils with an absolute drubbing at the hands of the Nashville Predators today.

There was little for the Pens to look back on fondly here as they were outshot, outhit, and obviously outscored by a strong Nashville squad.

Predators defenseman Roman Josi started off the scoring in the first period as rookie phenom Filip Forsberg layed up a one-timer pass, allowing Josi to wire it into the twine past Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

Just a couple minutes later, the Penguins gifted Nashville another tally as Simon Despres made a terrible play from deep in his own zone, sending the puck from the corner into the middle of the ice, straight to Predators forward Gabriel Bourque, who slammed home the Preds’ second of the game.

The Penguins tried to respond in the second period, outshooting Nashville 11-7, but couldn’t manage to beat backup tender Carter Hutton.

Near the end of the second frame, the Preds struck again when an errant pass from young defenseman Derrick Pouliot got caught in the skates of Sidney Crosby, allowing Taylor Beck to pickpocket the Pens captain and sweep the puck to Eric Nystrom all alone in front of Pittsburgh’s net.

Nystrom made no mistake, deking out Fleury to score his 6th of the year, giving Nashville a 3-0 lead heading into the third stanza.

Pittsburgh managed little in the way of a comeback during the final period as the Preds outshot them 10-5 and added another goal, courtesy of Mike Fisher, to take the score to 4-0.

The final tally was the result of yet another Pittsburgh mishap. As Nashville set up on the powerplay, former Penguin James Neal dropped down to screen Fleury. Pens defenseman Robert Bortuzzo came in to deal with the situation, but rather than clearing Neal out, Bortuzzo remained in front of Fleury, screening him further.

Fisher put the puck on net from the slot, wherein it deflected off Bortuzzo’s stick, past the double-screened Fleury, and into the back of the cage.

It was an all-around subpar effort from the Penguins, who just simply didn’t look like a team on the same level as their opponent.

While Nashville looked structured, energetic, and responsible on both sides of the puck, the Pens continually missed the mark with misplaced passes, defensive lapses, and key errors that resulted in the puck in the back of their own net.

Pittsburgh certainly felt the absence of star centre Evgeni Malkin tonight, as the former Art Ross and Hart trophy winner has been crucial in the past in terms of firing up his team with big plays when needed most.

That being said, the 4-0 score reflects the fact that Pittsburgh’s problems go deeper than injuries at this point.

This was a team that still had Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, David Perron, and Patric Hornqvist on the ice. Yet they couldn’t muster much sustained pressure at all, or reliably defend a strong offensive push. The addition of one or two players isn’t going to change that, regardless of the calibre of said players.

The Pens’ biggest problem at this point seems to be their style of play. When the chips were down late in the game, it didn’t seem like the Pens were pushing and pushing and just barely missing. Sure there were some shots off the post and some bad penalty kills.

But they were simply outplayed by the Predators.

No matter who was on the ice, the Pens would repeatedly take the puck into Nashville’s zone, try a few slick passes that didn’t quite work out, and then get ousted as the Predators would take the puck back down and put it on the Penguins’ net.

Pittsburgh’s failure to connect on the powerplay didn’t help them either. The Pens were given 3 man-advantage opportunities in the game and didn’t convert on any of them. In fact, the Pens not only failed to score on the powerplay, they in fact gave up a fair number of quality shorthanded chances to the Predators, and took a penalty of their own at one point to nullify one of their man-advantage opportunities.

Newly minted head coach Mike Johnston seems to be struggling mightily as of late as his team has now managed only 2 wins in their last 8 games (with the latest loss signalling Pittsburgh’s 2nd 4-0 shutout loss in 3 games) – a fairly shocking total considering how many of those games have included fairly healthy Penguins lineups.

Many of those losses came against some of the strongest teams in the league, but that should provide little comfort to the Pens organization or fans, as it simply proves that at the moment this team is not a championship-calibre club.

While the hope is that the return of Evgeni Malkin allows all the pieces to fall into place so that the Pens can return to their winning ways, the team looks to be in need of some considerable work at the moment.

Pittsburgh will get a chance to start a new winning streak on February 4th when they begin their Western Canada road-trip against the basement-dwelling Edmonton Oilers.