Inside Pittsburgh Sports

For The Penguins Signature Loss Means More Than Signature Win

Many Penguin fans were hoping that it could be looked upon as a turning point. Some in the Pittsburgh media labeled it a “signature win.” The players and coaches seemed enthused as well.

Last Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins had just secured a 4-3 shootout victory in a game that was…by way of departure this season… both an entertaining and challenging game against the first place Montreal Canadiens in front of a wired Consol Energy Center crowd.

Optimists tried to will momentum onto the perpetually feckless Penguins as a result of that game. The inference being that this talent-laden but emotionally flat and inconsistent group would find traction as a result of that conquest. And some warm spring day in 2016, in the midst of a deep playoff run, we’d all point back to the Veterans Day result that was the moment when this year’s edition of the Pittsburgh Penguins turned it around and got on track.

The Montreal game was quickly followed up by a 2-1 home loss to the Eastern Conference cellar dwelling Blue Jackets on Friday and a dreadful 4-0 defeat in New Jersey the following evening. The game vs NJ was so bad that, in a moment of honesty, Evgeni Malkin stated that the players on the team were “mad at each other.”

Predictably, the Penguin media machine tried to control that message. “Well, you know, Geno with English as his second language and all. He really meant ‘frustrated’ more than ‘mad’, so it wasn’t that big of a thing.”

Yeah. Yeah, it was. And it’s a good thing Malkin said something. And I don’t know why everyone associated with the team (including Malkin himself) tried to soften his words in the 48 hours after Malkin spat them out. Because he meant them.

And the team responded on Tuesday in their first game after that debacle in Newark with a 4-3 win over Minnesota. Furthermore, it was a game in which Malkin owned. The center contributed to all four scores with two goals and two assists.

“Tonight we showed how we can play. It’s still not perfect. But it’s a little bit better. And now I hope we understand what’s going on in the team. And that we support each other, and we start winning,” said Malkin after the win.

Okay? We all good with that? Anyone need to re-translate that one for us again? Or are we good on this one. Because broken English or not I’m thinking Geno is making a helluva lot of sense here. And I think he did Saturday too. And apparently so did his coach.

“I was impressed with Geno after the (NJ) game. To make comments like that. His emotion. And then he moved forward tonight,” said Johnston at his post game press conference Tuesday.

Actually, coach, he moved forward…sideways…backwards…diagonally through the Minnesota defense. Malkin had five points against Winnipeg back on 3/20/2012. This might have been his best game since then. It looked like a highlight reel of the Carolina playoff series he dominated en route to the Stanley Cup in 2009.

“Everybody really wanted to bounce back and make sure that what happened in Jersey doesn’t happen anymore,” said Penguin captain Sidney Crosby. “The way that he (Malkin) played showed that.”

So let’s forget that “signature win” thing after the Montreal game. Could that Devils game have the same effect as a “signature loss”?

“Yeah. Yeah I think so,” said winning goaltender Marc Andre Fleury when asked that question. “Sometimes when you win you don’t see the big picture as you should. In here, we knew we were winning but we weren’t playing as well as we could. And that last game (in NJ) was really an eye opener. And we had a great response tonight. And I think that’s the way we want to play, we can play. And we look a lot better as a team.”

The true test of this theory comes on Thursday night against Colorado at home. Because “signature” wins or losses are only written in indelible ink if they carry over for more than one night.To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!