Penguins struggle to clear front of the net, miss Letang on breakout in 3-1 loss to Phoenix Coyotes

The Pittsburgh Penguins suffered a 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night, going 1-1 on a two game Western Conference road trip.
Two things that stood out for the Penguins in the loss:
1. They missed Kris Letang a lot on the breakout. Letang missed his second straight game with an illness. Some have called it a mystery illness, as according to those on the scene, Letang looked fine when seen on the road trip and Thursday night when Letang was scratched vs the Kings, the Penguins seemed to be trying to hide for the reason.
2. The Penguins struggled mightily at clearing the front of the net vs Phoenix and were burned for that on two goal.

Mike Ribeiro’s opening goal at 12:42 of the first period had Antoine Vermette screening Marc Andre Fleury without being touched by a fly. On the goal, Robert Bortuzzo the Penguins most physical defenseman had coverage in front on Vermette but never made one attempt to move Vermette.
Phoenix would go up 2-0 at 10:50 of the second period on a Zbynek Michalek shot from the point where the Coyotes again had great traffic in front, this time from Mikkel Boedker. Paul Martin was weak in front making little attempt to clear Boedker.
The Penguins would cut the Coyotes lead to 2-1 on Evgeni Malkin’s 16th goal of the season with 4:09 left in the second period. However, the Penguins never had control of the this game and Radim Vrbata would put the Coyotes up 3-1 just 4:13 into the third period off a Brian Gibbons turnover and beating Marc Andre Fleury.
Pittsburgh has three games remaining before the Olympic Break, vs Ottawa on Monday night, @ Buffalo Wednesday night and vs New York Rangers on Friday night.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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