Pittsburgh – Tristan Jarry conceded twice in the third period. Evgeny Malkin has lost his mind.
Penguins have often lost their way.
On a night that featured Gary’s return to the lineup, a dominant Penguins performance through two periods and an unforgettable display of butts, the biggest news was another loss. The Penguins now find themselves out of the playoff picture after falling to the Islanders 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena on Monday.
Has the current situation bothered the penguins?
“No,” said Brian Rust. “This team has seen a lot of things.”
That’s right, but this team has never seen anything quite like it. The last time the Penguins were out of the playoff picture late in the season was in 2006 when Sidney Crosby was 18, Malkin was still in Russia and Gary was 10.
They never felt so vulnerable in the Crosby era. The playoff streak dating back to 2007 appears to be in grave danger of being interrupted. This team is not very good. They invent ways to lose and their general manager has not taken an individual step to improve the roster.
Times are very bleak for these penguins.
Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker each scored in the first two periods to put the Penguins ahead. If it weren’t for a truly stellar performance from Lylers goaltender Ilya Sorokin, the Penguins would have moved up a lot more.
Sorokin made one of the best saves of the NHL season on Chris Letang in the second half.
The Penguins, in what had been a theme all season, were unable to protect their lead in the third round. While they’re usually guilty of bad defensive habits – oh, that was on display again – this one was on the goalkeeper.
Gary, who suffered an injury that kept him out of the lineup for all but three games in 2023, made his big comeback against the Islanders. Not a minute too soon. Casey DeSmith has struggled pretty much behind Gary, who is very clearly the Penguins’ best hope.
He was completely fine for two periods. After that, he allowed a very short goal to Bo Horvat.
Less than two minutes later, with the tension in the building visibly felt, Gary gave up another bad goal, this one to Anders Lee.
And that was it.
There is no denying that the penguins beat the islanders in this game. However, they are now a resounding 0-3-0 against the Islanders this season.
If the Penguins rock, they won’t show up in the locker room. They have been unwaveringly confident when meeting the media all season, no matter how gruesome some of their losses have been.
Malkin, who hit most of the Islanders on the ice during a wild encounter in the second period, spoke for the team as he often does during the darkest times.
“We have to play the same if we are going forward by two goals or one,” he said. “do not wait. bid to win. Keep moving, play the same game, try forward checking. In the last couple of games we feel the pressure, you know? We need points. … We start to wait a long time and they start to change momentum.”
Malkin, who shot six of the Penguins’ 47 punts, noted that the Penguins are still on their way to reaching the postseason.
““We’ll get up tomorrow with a little bit of a break,” Malkin said. “We have two days to rest before the next game. We understand the importance of every game. My back is running. Just keep your focus. Stay positive. They support each other. It’s not over yet. We need to win a lot. I think we’ll be fine.”
The Penguins have 26 games left to find out.
“If we play the same thing, fight every inch, try to play hard, we’ll win,” Malkin said. “We have a great team here. I believe in everyone. If we play the same, we will be in the playoffs for sure.”
10 post-game notes
• The Islanders went right after Crosby and Malkin in back-to-back spells in the second half while trailing 2-1. The plan worked.
It was a quarrel. As usual, Malkin and Letang were very energetic. So was Zucker.
The problem for the Penguins is that the Islanders put Matt Martin and Ross Johnston on the ice. They are not skilled in the ways of playing hockey, but you don’t want to run into them in a dark alley. or in a hockey rink.
The penguins actually handled themselves pretty well. When Johnston, a giant man and legitimate fighter, clashed with Malkin, Zucker jumped. good for him. Penguins need to do more of that.
Mike Sullivan was unfazed by anything the Penguins did during the scrimmage.
“It was hockey,” he said.
Honestly, it was the most intense fight I’ve seen of the Penguins all season. I kind of liked him.
Of course, that didn’t help the Penguins. Zucker got 10 minutes of misconduct. Letang, Malkin, Guentzel and Marcus Pettersson – also known as four of the Penguins’ best players – were all sent into the box. Meanwhile, the Islanders had to play without the likes of Martin and Johnston. Advantage, New York.
• The entire scene could have easily been avoided.
Earlier, the islanders went after Crosby. In fact, Crosby was tackled by Sebastian Ahu in the corner. Brian Burke, the team’s president of hockey operations, was next to him in the press box when nothing was communicated. Instead, referee Peter McDougal apparently thought Aho dragging Crosby onto the ice when the puck was 50 feet away sounded a bit like hockey and deemed play to continue.
If the right call is made, the penguins start playing and this scene never happens.
• The good news is that Gary was able to play and declared himself healthy after the match.
However, the Penguins were left out in this game. If that sounds harsh, too bad. The penguins are desperate for points and have outpaced the islanders by a large margin. These last two goals in New York – especially the Horvat goal – must be stopped. There is no other way to put it.
I have no doubt my neighbor was rusty, but that rust should go away quickly. The penguins need it badly.
• The first Penguin power play unit looked disjointed as I’ve seen all season.
Their inability to set up a power play in the islanders’ territory was noteworthy. They didn’t do anything. This upper unit seems very lost at the moment.
• Penguins keep making embarrassing mistakes.
Less than 30 seconds after Zucker put the Penguins up 2-1, the Penguins had their fourth line on the ice. Soon, Zach Barris was allowed to skate by himself on Gary. The breakaway was stopped by the goaltender, and that would have been a defining moment had the Penguins prevailed. Instead, it’s just another mistake from a team they can’t stop making.
How do you allow a breakup in less than 30 seconds after a goal is scored? And how does your fourth line allow that to happen? Come here.
• Brock Nelson leveled the game in the second half thanks to some exemplary Penguins play.
Peterson was caught doing a bad pinch hit. not perfect. But at least Drew O’Connor was there to cover it up. Even then, O’Connor fumbled, giving the Islanders a two-run game.
These mistakes happen again and again. Penguins do not change. That’s what they are.
• Brock McGinn has now gone 23 games without a point.
This is really, really hard to do. I get that his buddies — Jeff Carter and Casperi Kapanen — aren’t exactly high caliber right now, but really, it’s quite a slip up.
To make matters worse, McGinn took two bad penalties in this match. Is Danton Heinen worse than him? I don’t really care that McGinn is the better killer at this point. You have to play your best players. I don’t think Heinen is anything special, but he has to be more effective than this.
Letang and Guentzel were also guilty of penalties in the third period, for good measure.
• This was a horrific loss.
The Islanders aren’t very good as they were playing without injured superstars Matt Barzal and Josh Bailey. While Sorokin was brilliant, the rest of the island’s population was largely mediocre. Yet they won. You can’t let this happen. The Penguins outscored them, 47-32.
• I love fighting Malkin. You can’t say he doesn’t care.
• So, what now?
Connor McDavid comes to town on Thursday. How do you think this will go? The Penguins then play four of their next five on the road, including two games with Tampa Bay.
The last six were again horrific. If Ron Hextall doesn’t make a move to help this team, the Penguins are roasting and won’t make the playoffs. Even with an addition or two, where are they going?
The penguins are in deep trouble.
(Photo of Islanders celebrating Anders Lee’s goal (hidden). Penguins goalkeeper Tristan Jarry kneels in front: Charles LeClair/USA Today)
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