AVALANCHE 3 – PENGUINS 1
A sluggish start saw the Penguins struggling with the Avalanche’s speed and falling behind 2-0 after forty minutes, en route to a 3-1 loss to the Avs on Wednesday night.
The loss snapped the Penguins four game winning streak.
“We knew they played fast. They played exactly the way we expected and we just didn’t move our feet,”said Sidney Crosby who was held pointless for the 25th time this season.
While the Penguins outshot the Avalanche 29-22 and had a whopping 70-40 advantage on shot attempts, including 61-30 advantage 5 v 5, Colorado was the team getting high percentage shots and scoring chances.
“Getting through the neutral zone, getting out of our zone, it just wasn’t clean, so it was tough to enter with a lot of speed,” Crosby said. “You’re either making bad passes or they’re intercepting them. It was hard to get any real flow.”
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were quiet for the first forty minutes, Crosby the entire game, and this was the type of game where you need your third or fourth line to provide a key goal to get things going. As the saying goes, the Penguins go as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin go, and that’s how it played out.
The Penguins finally woke up in the third period due to Evgeni Malkin trying to take over the game and he almost did. He willed the Penguins to within one goal with his 27th goal of the season at 9:45 of the third period and the Penguins would go on to dominate play for the next five minutes until Gabriel Landeskog responded with a goal at 14:57 for a 3-1 Avalanche lead. Malkin turned the puck over near the Avs blueline and Ryan O’Reilly got the puck up to Landeskog, who cut backed and moved around rookie defenseman Derrick Pouliot, skated in front and beat Marc Andre Fleury for the back breaker goal.
“That was a heck of a move,” Avs head coach Patrick Roy said afterwards. “He [Gabriel Landeskog] made a real nice move in front of Pouliot. It was a great play by him.”
Tough start to the road trip with back to back games coming up against the surging Ducks and LA Kings.
Sidney Crosby – Crosby was held pointless for the 25th time this season but the key stat for his night is the Penguins had 70 shot attempts as a team, Crosby just 1 shot attempt. In the faceoff circle Crosby was 7-20 (35%), the only center for Pittsburgh under 50%, including 4-12 on offensive zone draws
Blake Comeau – If you watch Blake Comeau’s game closely, you start to see why there’s concerns about the Penguins top-6. Other than having a booming shot, the rest of his game is more like a 4th liner. Steve Downie who is a better distributor at finding players in space than Comeau, could be worth a look with Malkin and Kunitz at somepoint.
Max Lapierre – At the time of the Marcel Goc/Max Lapierre trade, I had one individual close to the Blues organization warn me that from a grit/physical standpoint, Maxim Lapierre no longer plays like the player he was in Montreal/Vancouver. Certainly starting to see that. He’s having no impact from a physical standpoint on the forecheck or in the corners to go with being a limited offensive player. Not a good combination.
Ben Lovejoy – Lovejoy played nearly 20 minutes, 19:27. Had 3 hits in the game. He was okay. Gambled in the neutral zone early that led to a scoring chance the other way and lost a few battles down low but he was fine. His skating ability remains very strong but it remains odd looking at him as a top-4 defenseman. Lovejoy was on the ice for 17 shot attempts, 12 against. Good test comes Friday night.
Ian Cole – As expected, Cole played limited third pairing minutes, 12:23 and led Penguin defensemen with 4 hits. Cole posted a CF% of 72.7, on the ice for 16 shot attempts and just 6 against. The Avalanche are a notorious poor possession team, so don’t read much into the shot attempt advantage.