Pittsburgh Penguins Burned by Calgary Flames


A strong start wasn’t enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose game fell apart as the lowly Calgary Flames took control and doubled up on the Pens, 4-2.

A mere thirty seconds into the Calgary Flames‘ visit to Pittsburgh, they found themselves down 0-1. Patric Hornqvist gave them a warm welcome by tapping in a rebound that went off goalie Joni Ortio‘s skate.

The Flames, who had one win in their last eleven games, struck right back as Joe Colborne scored one to even it up a little under two minutes in. With two goals within the first two minutes, this looked like it was going to be a high-scoring game.

This was Pittsburgh Penguins‘ forward Josh Archibald‘s first NHL game. He was called up after Kevin Porter had ankle surgery a few days ago, and has a strong shot. On the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl, Archibald was surely looking to cash in on the scoring frenzy.

However, that immediate momentum came to a screeching stop. After the first two minutes, the pace of the game slowed down significantly. Marc-Andre Fleury made several good saves, as did the winless Ortio at the other end. Still, the Penguins didn’t give up the fight.

Carl Hagelin collided with Josh Jooris and Johnny Gaudreau and went down the tunnel to the locker room near the end of the first, not returning until a few minutes into the second. In his absence, Scott Wilson moved up to the top wing; later, Cullen rotated into that spot.

Evgeni Malkin wrapped up the first period with a beautiful chance as he deked through the Flames’ defense to get a pass to Trevor Daley, who couldn’t convert. The first twenty minutes came in like a lion and out like a lamb, as the score remained tied 1-1.

Mar 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) checks Calgary Flames center Joe Colborne (8) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) checks Calgary Flames center Joe Colborne (8) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

However, in the second period, the Flames came out to play. They kept the Penguins chasing, stealing the puck away several times and repeatedly catching the Pens flat-footed. Regardless of that, the Penguins took back the lead just as Hagelin returned to the bench.

Captain Sidney Crosby dished the puck back to Hornqvist, who took a shot that Crosby deflected into the net. The Penguins are first in the league for goals scored in the second period, with 74 – well, now 75. Hornqvist got his second point of the afternoon as he was credited with an assist, along with Brian Dumoulin.

Just like that, the Flames tied it up again. Deja vu of the first period struck as Mark Giordano got one back moments after the Crosby goal. The Flames, who have a record of 6-21-1 when they allow the first goal, would just not go away. A defensive lapse allowed Giordano to sneak up ice and get in position to receive a pass, which he roofed.

The first penalty of the game went against Kuhnhackl for high sticking. While it appeared accidental, he caught Jakub Nakladal under the visor and drew blood, resulting in a double minor. Nakladal stayed down on the ice for some time but eventually made his way off in a significant amount of pain.

The Flames’ powerplay is 29th in the league, whereas the Pens’ penalty kill is 7th. This four-minute kill saw the Penguins get several shorthanded chances, but also make some bad turnovers. Though the kill had officially ended, the Flames scored just seconds after Kuhnhackl got back on the ice.

Dougie Hamilton faked out Fleury – and the entire team – by acting like he was going to shoot and instead passing it to the open Mikael Backlund, who tapped it in.

The third period began with a winger swap, as Hagelin was moved back to the second line and Chris Kunitz moved up to his usual spot on Crosby’s wing. The second line hadn’t managed a shot yet so that movement was intended to alleviate that.

Newly acquired Jyrki Jokipakka took a penalty a few minutes into the period after dangerously boarding Bryan Rust. The man-advantage was wasted, though, as the Penguins were still outplayed by the bottom-dwelling Flames. From the late first period on, Calgary’s players looked like they were playing with more drive and more grit than the Penguins.

Phil Kessel then took a delay of game penalty, hitting the puck into the stands when trying to knock it out of the air. It was the last thing the Pens needed at that point. Still, they managed to kill it off.

As the game neared its end, Lance Bouma wristed the puck on goal and Fleury gave up a juicy rebound, right to Colborne. Colborne got it back to the open Bouma, who waited for Fleury to go down and put the final nail in the coffin.

On the bright side, both Kris Letang and Derrick Pouliot had a good game, given the circumstances.

Down by two with a little over three minutes left, head coach Mike Sullivan pulled Fleury for the man-advantage in desperation. Luck finally seemed to turn their way as Hamilton was called for a slashing penalty against Kunitz, and suddenly the Pens had a two-man advantage.

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In the last minute of the game, Giordano shoved Malkin into the net and Malkin looked a little shaken. The Penguins cannot afford to lose Geno again in the last stretch of the season.

On the advantage the Pens played a lineup of five forwards and one defenseman, the offensively-gifted Letang, but could not solve Ortio, who finally got his first win of the season. The Penguins dropped an unexpected one to the Flames, 4-2.

The stats tell the tale of where the Penguins fell short. As usual, they were on the wrong end of the physical game, out-hit 20 to 32. They also had an abysmal 15 giveaways as opposed to only 2 by the Flames.

Tomorrow the Pens play the New Jersey Devils in the first of a long stretch of games against Metropolitan Division rivals.