Penguins drop another overtime game, this time to Devils


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NEWARK, N.J. --The Penguins have gotten accustomed to doing a little extra work, to playing games that stretch beyond the third period. What they can't get used to is how little they're getting to show for their trouble.

Their 2-1 loss Friday night to New Jersey at the Prudential Center marked the fourth time in the past seven games that they have been beaten in overtime or a shootout.

And while there's something to be said for picking up a point nearly every time they pull on their work clothes, getting a second one every now and then would do great things for their mental well-being.


Today

Game: Penguins at Boston Bruins, 7:08 p.m. today, TD Garden.

TV, radio, Internet: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9), www.penguins.nhl.com.

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Tim Thomas for Bruins.

Penguins: Are 1-2 against Bruins, including 3-2 victory Jan. 15 at Garden. ... LW Chris Kunitz, who has missed past 12 games with unspecified injury, is only Penguin with two goals against Bruins this season. ... Have 8-3-2 record in second game when playing on consecutive days.

Bruins: Have won seven games in row after losing four of previous five. ... RW Mark Recchi will be appearing in his 1,636th game, sixth most in league history. ... Are 9-2-1 against Atlantic Division opponents.

Of note: Bruins are just 2-7 this season in games that go to overtime.


"It's definitely deflating after the games," center Jordan Staal said.

And, occasionally, exasperating. That certainly was the case against the Devils, who got the winner from Ilya Kovalchuk with 24.9 seconds left in overtime while defenseman Zbynek Michalek was serving what the Penguins viewed as a phantom hooking minor called at 2:46.

It was the only penalty assessed to them all game, but that didn't make it easier to accept that Michalek had been guilty of hooking Devils center Travis Zajac.

"I don't know what [the referee] saw to call a penalty like that in overtime," Michalek said. "I thought I did a pretty good job of separating the guy from the puck. I got my body position. I don't know what he saw.

"They don't call anything the whole game, then call something like that in overtime."

Coach Dan Bylsma clearly shared that perspective, but expressed it a bit more diplomatically.

"I didn't think it was a very good call, but it's the referee's job," he said. "He decided it was a penalty, and we put ourselves in that situation with a turnover there."

Kovalchuk got his ninth winner of the season by hitting a mostly open net from inside the left circle. Goalie Brent Johnson had left his feet after making a stop on Patrik Elias, who had collected the carom of a Brian Rolston shot that missed the net and eventually got the puck to Kovalchuk.

"I got a piece of [Elias' shot] with my pad, but I lost it and was just swimming out of the net as I tried to get back for that shot," Johnson said. "He just kind of wrapped it around to Kovalchuk for a one-timer."

Beating the Devils figured to be difficult enough -- New Jersey is 19-2-2 in its past 23 games -- but the Penguins' challenge was compounded when their top defenseman, Kris Letang, received a game misconduct at 6:14 of the opening period for not having his sweater tied down when he fought Zajac.

Letang was not available for comment after the game, and Bylsma said he had not spoken with him to find out why Letang didn't have it secured. Letang's departure forced the Penguins to play with five defensemen for the rest of the night.

"It was very difficult, taxed a lot of guys, put a lot of extra minutes on some guys' plate," Bylsma said.

That was particularly true of two; Michalek logged 28 minutes, five seconds and Paul Martin played a staggering 35 minutes, 26 seconds. Whether that will affect either of them when the Penguins play in Boston tonight remains to be seen.

It was unfortunate for the Penguins that Zajac had his sweater tied down -- or at least, didn't have it pulled over his head to prove that it wasn't -- because he scored the goal that put the Devils in front, 1-0, at 3:43 of the second period.

Zajac split Martin and Michalek, then put a backhander by Johnson from the edge of the left circle.

Spotting the Devils even a one-goal lead can be fatal -- New Jersey has won three consecutive 2-1 games, and has nine one-goal victories in its past 11 games -- but Tyler Kennedy countered for the Penguins almost immediately.

He took the puck from Kovalchuk along the right-wing boards in the New Jersey zone after a linesman had gotten mixed up in the play, then carried it into the circle and threw a shot over goalie Martin Brodeur's glove from just above the dot at 5:58.

"It came right to me," Kennedy said. "I went to the net and shot it. I'm not even sure what happened."

Neither were the Penguins a while later, when Michalek was sent to the penalty box in overtime. Didn't matter, though, because the Devils made the most of the chance they were given, and the Penguins (37-21-8) again were left to reflect on the point that got away.

"We're playing well right now," Kennedy said. "We're just inches away from winning hockey games. But we have to get better."


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com . First Published March 5, 2011 5:00 AM


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