Though the Penguins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers last night on the road, they seemed to be primed to bounce back on their home ice against another hated division rival. They were leading the Rangers 1-0 with 9:50 to go in regulation and then the wheels went caroming off.
Erik Christensen started things off for the Rangers who had trailed significantly in shots throughout the game. The former Penguin got the Rags a power play goal moments after Matt Cooke was whistled for a trip on Derek Stepan. He carried the puck through the neutral zone and pressed back the defense, who played him a bit loosely. He got to the face-off circle and lashed a wicked wrist shot over the shoulder of Brent Johnson.
“It rode up the shaft of my defenseman and it went right over my shoulder, it was a tough goal for me to give up because it was a deep angle shot and if I stand up I might just have it,” Brent Johnson said. “But I was just trying to play the odds there.”
Johnson, who is normally smiling as much as Marc Andre Fleury, was pretty disappointed with himself. I can’t recall him looking as downtrodden as he did following this game. He made generous use of the term disappointing throughout his scrum. However, if he was down on himself for giving up four goals in the final ten minutes of regulation, his coach certainly wasn’t.
“He did a good job of handling the puck and minimizing their forecheck and was good in the net,” said Dan Bylsma. “I do not like the opportunities they ended up getting — those are more an issue with the guys in front of him.”
Though the Penguins watched their lead quickly turn into a 2-1 deficit, they thought that they had the equalizer. Evgeni Malkin danced through the high slot and fired a puck towards the front of the net where Sidney Crosby tipped it past Lundqvist. Unfortunately for the Birds, that goal was waived off due to what the referee thought was goalie interference by Pascal Dupuis. Bylsma and the CONSOL Energy Center faithful had the benefit of seeing the replay and it was pretty obvious that Dupuis was pushed into Lundqvist.
“If you are speaking about the no goal, the referee thought our guy, without any help, went into the crease and interfered with the goalie before the shot came,” Bylsma said when asked if he got a satisfactory answer from the officials. “That was the referee’s explanation.”
The Penguins didn’t seem to have a ton of answers for what went wrong this evening, other than the fact that they got away from their game and started to fall into some of the bad habits that afflicted them back in October. They got away from their defensive structure during the the third period, they allowed the game to open up too much and didn’t play as if they were protecting a lead.
“I think that we didn’t play with the lead,” Kris Letang said when I caught up with him post game. “We just played like we were in a 0-0 game or if we were trailing we were looking for goals.
“I think it’s maybe mental and maybe a little rest… we need to recharge the battery and play better than in the third…”
You would think that this kind of game would not be the kind of thing that a team would want to dwell on heading into a four day layoff, but Letang thinks that heading into a mini break in their schedule could be a good thing.
“I think its good that we have some rest,” Letang said. “We have played a lot lately, those four days going to be very good for everyone. We have some guys that are banged up right now and we can get some rest and some practice and work on the stuff that we need to improve.”
Improve they will, as a collapse like this hasn’t happened to the Penguins in quite awhile. You could make a case that it is the worst that they have experienced since the Boston meltdown that seemed to spark their 12 game winning streak. Could the same thing be on the horizon? These group of Birds certainly is capable of making it happen…
Stay tuned for more shortly, including the audio of my exchange with Kris Letang…
As I head of out of the CONSOL, here are Letang’s thoughts on the disallowed goal…
“Hockey is a fast game… When you look at the replay you can see that there was no goalie interference, but they have to make a decision on the ice. Like I said it is a fast game… So, they had a decision to make and we still had a lot of time left. It’s just a question that we don’t get to low after a decision like that and make sure we keep working hard.”