Pittsburgh Penguins Fall To Los Angeles Kings 5-3


The Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 this afternoon at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

3. 92. 5. 67. Final

Despite entering the game fresh off of a 5-1 victory against a solid San Jose Sharks team, the Penguins started the night on the back foot and never recovered. The Pens offense was so anemic that they did not generate a shot on Jonathan Quick’s net until 10:16 to play in the first period.

Marc-Andre Fleury bailed the Pens out with a solid first period, saving all ten shots he faced with the Penguins only generating three in the same timeframe.

Early heroics notwithstanding, the second period saw things take a turn for the worse. Rob Scuderi took his second penalty – this time for delay of game – and Drew Doughty and the Kings capitalized four seconds into the ensuing power play for a 1-0 LA lead.

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Midway through the second frame Marian Gaborik broke out of the Kings’ defensive zone and laid a drop pass off to the trailing Christian Ehrhoff as he crossed the blueline. Instead of fronting Ehrhoff, Scuderi continued backing on the play and Ehrhoff beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stick side with a nifty shot for a 2-0 LA lead.

1:04 later, a streaking Milan Lucic scored to give the Kings demoralizing 3-0 lead. Brian Dumoulin shaded too far towards Tyler Toffoli on the play and Lucic simply rifled it past Fleury before he could even react.

The Pens quickly fired back with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz rekindling the old magic, even if just for a minute. Kunitz’s goal put the score at 3-1.

The momentum was short lived, however, as Anze Kopitar held off three Penguins in the corner long enough for Dustin Brown to pick up the puck and pass to a wide open Jake Muzzin for an easy goal. Phil Kessel got caught puck watching on the sequence, which led to Muzzin camping out with all the time and space in the world for Dustin Brown’s cross-ice pass.

Despite the Kings’ onslaught, the 2nd period wouldn’t end without the Penguins getting on the board again.

Olli Maatta, playing in his first game since November 17th, activated into the offensive zone as Beau Bennett came away from a scrum with the puck. Bennett hit him in stride and Maatta scored with a backhand past Jonathan Quick to cut the Kings lead to two again. Even with two goals scored, the Penguins were outshot 18 to 8 in the 2nd.

The third period began a little more promising with the captain, Sidney Crosby, up to his old tricks again. A good job by Chris Kunitz keeping the puck in the Pens offensive zone led to a slap pass from Brian Dumoulin being redirected by Crosby into Quick’s net to bring the Penguins within one goal.

The Crosby redirection was vintage Sid and it got the comeback hopes flowing from the Pen’s faithful.

Unfortunately, the Penguins continued to struggle entering and establishing themselves in the offensive zone. They mustered only 9 shots on goal throughout the 3rd period. An empty netter by Milan Lucic sealed the game for the Kings, 5-3.

Player Performance

Sidney Crosby was dormant through the first half of the game before finding Chris Kunitz for a goal in the 2nd period. Fans have clamored to see Beau Bennett and/or Daniel Sprong get minutes on the top line with the captain. Late in the second period they got their wish as Bennett joined Crosby and Chris Kunitz. The adjustment by Mike Johnston paid dividends, sparking a 2nd period goal for Olli Maata as well as a vintage Sidney Crosby goal in the third.

Beau Bennett made the most of his time on the top line and the stats bear that out. Though he finished with only one assist, Bennett was the only forward in the lineup whom Crosby had positive possession with at 66.7% Corsi For. Maybe keep him up there, head coach Mike Johnston? Please? Hopefully it works for more than a few games this time around.

Forward Phil Kessel was off of his game tonight, missing two huge chances and contributing mightily to the defensive lapse that allowed the Jake Muzzin goal less than a minute after Chris Kunitz had gotten the Penguins on the board.

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  • While he’s moving up the board in the All-Star vote, Rob Scuderi had an afternoon in the Staples Center that everyone would rather forget. He took two back-to-back penalties, one of which resulted in the first Kings goal. Then he played a direct hand in allowing former Penguin Christian Ehrhoff to net his first goal as an LA King.

    There’s no mistaking the fact that Scuderi is not anchoring the Penguins defensive corps in the positive sense; he is becoming an anchor for whomever he is paired with.

    It was very nice to see Olli Maatta back on the ice, though it is a shame that he returned in a game that Kris Letang was unable to suit up for. Hopefully Letang’s absence will be short lived, and this time Maatta’s return will stick for season’s duration.

    Penguins Player of the Game

    Marc-Andre Fleury did everything he could to will the Penguins to victory. How could the choice be anyone else?

    His stat line reads that he stopped 32 of 36 shots for an .889 save percentage, but that doesn’t fully reflect the type of day he had. His robbery of Tyler Toffoli was just one among many goals he saved the Pens from suffering Saturday afternoon. Fleury should’ve had the first Lucic goal that beat him five-hole, no doubt, but even on that goal he was put in a bad position by the team around him.

    The Big Picture

    The Penguins looked like a team that had no plan in either zone on Saturday and the underlying stats were not pretty.

    The defense in front of Marc-Andre Fleury was suspect and the offense was non-existent for a large portion of the game. Despite their lack of coordination, the Pens managed three goals based on the skill of a few of their players. Opportunism if you will. Right now it seems like a 50/50 proposition as to whether this will continue to be the team’s lot in life.

    Next: The Pittsburgh Penguins' Offense Has An Identity Crisis

    Will they turn it around and develop an identity in the offensive zone, or will they continue to suffer through every other game being hammered in their own zone only to squeak out a few wins with sheer skill and no real adjustment?

    We’ll find out what the next step is tomorrow as they take on the Anaheim Ducks at 8:00 PM EST.