Penguins in last place after 3-2 loss
Mark Recchi collides with Devils goalie Kevin Weekes in the third period Monday night at Mellon Arena. (vs. New Jersey Devils 11/12/07)
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The details, well, they change from game to game.
Some of them, anyway.
But the basic story line has gotten numbingly familiar.
The Penguins spend the game struggling to score, generally end up with no more than two goals (almost invariably by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin), and lose.
They didn't stray from the script in a 3-2 defeat by New Jersey at Mellon Arena last night.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Penguins (7-10-1), who have been held to two or fewer goals in each game of that streak and have slid into last place in the Atlantic Division.
The twist in the plot last night was that the Penguins battled back from a 2-0 deficit, only to have New Jersey score the winner on an odd-man break made possible when Penguins winger Georges Laraque -- who had been a physical force for much of the game -- tried a blind, backhand centering pass from behind the Devils' net.
On a roll
Here's a look at the five longest points streak of Sidney Crosby's career:
10/6/07 - Present
12/2/06 - 12/21/06
12/16/05 - 1/7/06
1/13/06 - 2/1/06
2/10/07 - 2/25/07
The puck, however, went directly to New Jersey winger Brian Gionta. He carried it into the other end and ultimately fed a cross-ice pass to Patrik Elias, who beat goalie Dany Sabourin from the inner edge of the left circle to cap a three-on-two break.
"That's the breaks we get right now," coach Michel Therrien said.
The goal was Elias' first in 12 games and stripped much of the luster from a solid showing by the fourth line of Laraque, Jarkko Ruutu and Maxime Talbot.
"They were awesome," Crosby said. "They provided a lot of spark, a physical presence."
The Penguins appeared to get a break when New Jersey coach Brent Sutter opted to give No. 1 goalie Martin Brodeur off and start backup Kevin Weekes.
Problem is, with the way the Penguins played in the early part of the game, Sutter didn't need Brodeur. He probably could have gotten by with Martin Short. Or Martin Scorsese. Or Martin Landau.
"The shots you had on him, he saw pretty well," Penguins defenseman Orpik said. "No traffic. Pretty easy stops for him."
The Penguins gave up the first goal for the fourth consecutive game, as Travis Zajac put a shot -- New Jersey's first of the game -- between Sabourin's legs from below the left dot at 4:40 of the opening period.
The Penguins gained some momentum with a couple of strong shifts as the middle of the period approached, but Erik Christensen was penalized for hooking at 10:00 and Zach Parise made it 2-0 when he beat Sabourin from the inner edge of the right circle 33 seconds later.
The fourth line gave the Penguins a lift with an inspired effort late in the period, highlighted by Ruutu checking Dainius Zubrus into the New Jersey bench, and Crosby got them on the board early in the second.
Crosby moved down the left side, took a feed from Ryan Malone and cut to the net before throwing the puck past Weekes at 26 seconds. The goal, Crosby's 10th, extended his career-best scoring streak to 17 games.
That was the only goal of the period, but with less than two minutes to go, Laraque contributed a hit that overshadowed the one by Ruutu. He ran into New Jersey defenseman Johnny Oduya so violently that Oduya did a backward somersault.
The Penguins finally pulled even on a power-play goal by Malkin at 10:34 of the third, as he lashed a slap shot past Weekes on the stick side from the top of the right circle.
Sergei Gonchar and Crosby received assists on the goal, which was Malkin's seventh and gave him at least one point in 11 consecutive games.
Just over four minutes later, however, Elias got the goal that made the Penguins' comeback moot.
"That's pretty deflating," Orpik said.
So, for the Penguins, are the Atlantic Division standings, since they've taken over squatters rights to the basement there.
"It's easy to look at the way things have gone the last few games and be critical, be negative," Crosby said. "But the fact is, we probably played our best game in the last few and deserved to win that one."
That just wasn't in the script, though. It almost never is anymore.
First Published November 13, 2007 12:00 am