On the Penguins: Fast start still leads to fourth loss in row
The Devils' Tim Sestito collides with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period last night at Mellon Arena.
Sidney Crosby battles for loose puck with the Devils David Clarkson in the third period.
Sidney Crosby blocks clearing pass by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
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If progress is incremental, the Penguins surely made some during their 4-1 loss last night to New Jersey at Mellon Arena.
Hey, they actually generated a goal and took a lead.
That might not seem like much, but for a team that had been shut out in its previous two games, it was a step forward, albeit a tiny one
But not nearly enough to prevent the Penguins (12-7) from losing for the fourth game in a row and for the fifth time in the past six games.
The Devils are surging in the opposite direction, with seven consecutive victories. They are 9-0 on the road and have earned two of those victories here. And they're doing it with textbook Jacques Lemaire hockey: patience, stingy defense, strong goaltending and opportunistic offense, particularly when it comes to exploiting turnovers.
"We knew what to expect," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
The Penguins held a brief, closed-door meeting after the game. While there clearly are some on-ice failings to discuss, their most glaring troubles continue to be medical.
The Penguins have an injured list that could form the nucleus of a playoff-caliber team -- they played without forwards Evgeni Malkin, Max Talbot and Tyler Kennedy and defensemen Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik -- but, for a change, it apparently didn't get any longer last night.
There is growing evidence that it might even shrink when Boston visits Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow because Malkin, who has been nursing a strained shoulder, is a candidate to return then. His presence could help to jump-start an offense that was shut out for 160 minutes and 41 seconds before Ruslan Fedotenko scored at 11:32 of the opening period last night. That ended a drought that was about 10 minutes shy of the franchise record for offensive futility (170:27).
Fedotenko led the Penguins with six shots on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur; Crosby was right behind with five, a total that didn't include two that caromed off goalposts. Crosby scored nine goals in his first 12 games, but has gone seven without one.
"It's not easy right now," Crosby said. "But the chances are there."
That was the case for his entire team, especially during the first 20 minutes or so.
"For the first period, we did really good," Fedotenko said. "It's too bad we didn't come out with a couple more goals."
Lemaire, the Devils' coach, suggested that would not have been unreasonable.
"In the first period, they just outworked us," he said. "They could have had a couple goals more."
Like when Martin Skoula put a shot off the crossbar at 5:36, or when Chris Bourque slid a puck through the crease, parallel to an unguarded goal line, at 8:20.
The stress that had been building on the Penguins finally was released at 11:32, when Fedotenko jammed the puck by Brodeur during a scrum for his first in the past six games and his team's first in nearly a week.
Crosby and Bourque got assists; Crosby's ended his career-worst five-game pointless streak.
That lead stood up until 13:50 of the second period, when Niclas Bergfors beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from below the left hash mark after a turnover by defenseman Deryk Engelland.
Andy Greene then put the Devils in front to stay, 2-1, with a power-play goal at 18:50, as his shot from the slot caromed off defenseman Ben Lovejoy and past Fleury while Bill Guerin was serving an interference minor.
"I think that one settled things down for us," Lemaire said.
New Jersey exploited a neutral-zone turnover by Chris Conner to stretch its advantage to 3-1 at 4:43 of the third, as Travis Zajac slid a pass under defenseman Alex Goligoski and onto the stick of Zach Parise, who rifled a shot under the crossbar.
David Clarkson closed out the scoring with an empty-netter 1.2 seconds before regulation expired.
The Penguins finished with a 26-24 edge in shots and might have had more to show for their trouble if they had been a bit more efficient.
"We can build on some things from tonight," forward Mike Rupp said. "And we definitely have to learn from some others."
First Published November 13, 2009 12:00 am