Offense falls flat again; Penguins manage 11 shots in loss
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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Penguins coach Michel Therrien went into the game last night wondering if his team would have a hangover or go into overdrive coming off a third-period collapse in its previous outing.
That night, for the second time in five games, the Penguins gave up a lead and ended up with a shootout loss to the Rangers Saturday in New York to start a four-game road trip.
"I'm looking to see how we're going to bounce back from that third period," Therrien said before his team took on the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.
"It's going to be interesting to see how our team will get the character to bounce back."
Funny thing, though. Character wasn't the problem in a 2-1 loss.
For all their offensive weapons -- the scoring champion in Sidney Crosby two seasons ago and the runner-up last season in Evgeni Malkin top the list -- the Penguins are struggling to generate offense.
They already ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in goals at 2.56 per game before falling to the Sharks as goaltender Dany Sabourin made 32 saves to keep it close.
The Penguins had 11 shots, which tied a team low that happened three times previously -- once in 1977 and twice in 2003.
Also of concern, Kris Letang limped off the ice early in the third period to potentially further deplete an injury-riddled group of defensemen. But he returned later in the period.
The Penguins already are playing without defensemen Ryan Whitney, who is out until around December after foot surgery; Sergei Gonchar, who is out until at least February after shoulder surgery; and Hal Gill, who is close to returning from a right hand injury.
Crosby and Malkin helped set up scoring chances, but many of them resulted in missed shots or mishandled passes until they finally worked to produce a goal.
Malkin's pass from behind the net was in turn thrown out front for a charging Ruslan Fedotenko, who beat goaltender Evgeni Nabokov at 14:27 of the third period to make it 2-1.
Even with the assist, Malkin fell out of the league scoring league. He entered the night with tied with Washington's Alexander Semin at 14 points apiece, Malkin's consisting of three goals and 11 assists.
Semin had a goal and an assist to give him eight of each for 16 points in the Capitals' 4-3 shootout win against Nashville.
The Sharks are perfect at home, 5-0. The Penguins are 0-1-1 on the road trip, which continues tomorrow in Phoenix before winding up in Saturday in St. Louis.
The Penguins killed a San Jose power play early in the first period with inspired work by Jordan Staal, who played all two minutes and set up a short-handed shot by Mike Zigomanis.
Malkin gave the Penguins their best scoring chance of the first period at 8:55 when he stole a cross-slot pass from Sharks defenseman Rob Blake for a point-blank shot, but he missed to the left of the net.
Less than a minute later, Blake went to the penalty box for tripping. The Penguins not only couldn't get much generated on the power play, but they also gave up a short-handed goal.
With some confusion among three Penguins around their blue line in front of the Sharks bench, San Jose's Milan Michalek picked off a pass from Alex Goligoski for a short breakaway on Sabourin.
Sabourin slid to his right to make the stop, but the puck got left in the crease, and Joe Pavelski roofed it for a 1-0 San Jose lead at 10:12.
The Sharks got another short-handed chance on the same penalty when Blake grabbed the puck after left point man Darryl Sydor couldn't keep it from crossing the blue line. Sydor raced back, though, and broke up Blake's pass in the Penguins' end. The Penguins had just three shots in the first period.
They generated a good chance at 1:35 of the second period when Pascal Dupuis forced Nabokov to reach and make a glove save off a two-on-one break in which Dupuis took a pass from Malkin.
Then San Jose poured on the pressure. They were outshooting the Penguins, 20-5, midway through the second period.
On their 21st shot, Dan Boyle made Sabourin belly-flop to make a stop.
By the end of the second period, the Sharks had 25 shots to the Penguins' 8.
San Jose went into shutdown mode in the third period, but added a goal at 12:52.
Mike Grier's back-hander beat Sabourin during four-on-four play to make it 2-0.
For San Jose, it was the first of back-to-back home games against the two Stanley Cup finalists from June. The defending champion Detroit Red Wings are here tomorrow.
"It's two of the best teams in the league," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "It's exciting to have a good test like this so early in the season. It's a good week for us."
One that started off well enough for them last night.
First Published October 29, 2008 1:01 am