The Penguins got off to a strong start on Friday in Winnipeg, taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission off a pair of goals by Sidney Crosby. But the Jets scored four unanswered goals, including an empty-netter with 1:09 minutes remaining, in the final two periods to get a 4-2 win in front of a packed and loud MTS Centre.
With the refs calling just three penalties overall, the game flowed well and had a fast and furious pace to it. The Penguins had a lot of offensive zone time and created a lot of decent scoring chances throughout, but once the Jets were able to get a 3-2 lead, they went into shutdown mode. They collapsed in front of goalie Ondrej Pavelec, doing whatever they had to do to get bodies in front of pucks.
And while the Penguins played well for stretches, especially in the first period, they started making mistakes and turnovers in the second period that cost them goals. They know they must tighten up their execution and eliminate all carelessness with the puck.
“We just made mistakes,” Crosby said. “I think it was a pretty high-tempo game all the way through. We obviously turned some pucks over and made some more mistakes. They capitalized on them. We’ve got to find a way not to (make mistakes). For the most part, we did a pretty good job. They had some shifts in our end, but things seemed to be pretty under control. Then we make some big mistakes that end up in our net.”
Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien all finished with a goal and an assist for the Jets.
Crosby had quite a debut in the capital of Manitoba, scoring both Penguins goals and putting forth an overall strong effort in a 4-2 loss to the Jets.
"It’s a fun place to play," Crosby said after the game. "Loud crowd. The game was pretty high tempo and back-and-forth. These are the ones that are enjoyable to play in. Much better when you win. But I thought it was an exciting atmosphere."
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The Penguins had to kill eight penalties in their last game, a 5-2 loss to Toronto, and the players said they had to be more disciplined tonight in Winnipeg. And they did just that, with the first penalty for either team not being called until the 10:51 mark of the second period when Olli Jokinen sat down for hooking. However, Evgeni Malkin was sent to the box 1:10 minutes into the Pittsburgh power play, and the Jets struck after Jokinen got out of the box when Dustin Byfuglien sniped a perfect shot into the top corner of the net.
Both goalies came up with saves worthy of the SportsCenter Top 10 on Friday. Tomas Vokoun’s best came with 54.6 seconds left in the second period when he made a gorgeous two-save sequence on Bryan Little and Evander Kane. First Vokoun came outside of his crease and made a beautiful kick save on Wheeler’s shot. A crashing Kane got the rebound and an open look, but Vokoun was able to whip his glove out, make the save and prevent the Jets from getting a two-goal lead at a crucial time in the game.
Early in the second period, Pavelec absolutely robbed Evgeni Malkin two times. On the first one, James Neal sent a gorgeous pass from the corner to a crashing Malkin, who went down on one knee to blast a one-timer at Pavelec, who made the save. On the second one, Malkin dragged the puck around a sliding Tobias Enstrom only to be stopped by Pavelec. Malkin got his own rebound with his long reach, but Pavelec flashed the pad.
“He made some really big saves for them,” Crosby said of Pavelec. “If we get that third one, maybe it’s a different story. But they got some momentum and once they got that lead, I think they had four guys across the blue line at some point. They were trying to protect it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get that tying goal.”
Although he wasn’t able to capitalize, the positive is that Malkin was creating those types of chances for himself. He was in the right places at the right times to receive passes from his linemates and used his world-class skill to get around defenders and get shots to the net.
Speaking of Malkin’s linemates, Tyler Kennedy did well playing left wing with him and Neal. Malkin said on Thursday that he really liked that Kennedy was a righty, as him and Neal are both left-handed. Kennedy and Neal playing on their off wings means that they’re in perfect position to one-time shots from their respective sides of the ice. We saw Kennedy get a few of those looks on Friday. In addition, Kennedy's speed and tenacity helped create open ice for his linemates. Overall, this line looked good for Pittsburgh.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo