After playing the Blues on Sunday, the Pens played another stingy defensive team in the Coyotes on Tuesday.
And while Pittsburgh created more offense against Phoenix than they did St. Louis, the Pens weren’t able to get the job done for a second straight game as they followed up their 1-0 loss to St. Louis with a 3-2 defeat to Phoenix at CONSOL Energy Center.
“I think St. Louis was a different game, they played hard,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “Tonight for whatever reason, whether we didn’t recover from an emotional game against St. Louis and didn’t have that same jump and energy that we needed tonight, we didn’t execute well. Just get back to that and hopefully get a win here next game.”
Despite dominating the opening few minutes of play, the Pens fell behind early when the Coyotes capitalized on a defensive-zone breakdown. From there, it was an uphill battle, which is never ideal – especially against a suffocating defensive team like Phoenix.
“When they get a lead they're a tough team to play against,” Pyatt said. “They clog up the neutral zone pretty good. We just weren't able to break through.”
It didn’t help that the Pens were inconsistent yet again on special teams and discipline was again an issue as they took too many penalties. Their power play was able to convert their one chance for a big goal, but Phoenix essentially went 2-for-5 with the man-advantage (one was officially credited as a power-play goal, while the other was scored as a penalty expired).
It also didn’t help the Pens were without superstar center Evgeni Malkin, as the team announced today he would be out 2-3 weeks with a foot injury.
Even with the regulation loss, the Pens still could have clinched their eighth-straight postseason berth if the if the Maple Leafs lost to the Blues in any fashion AND the Capitals lost to the Kings in regulation. And while Toronto lost in regulation, Washington lost in a shootout.
It was back to the future for the Pens in the first period of Tuesday’s game.
After David Moss opened the scoring for Phoenix, the Pens were given a power play shortly after. And 1:23 into the man-advantage, it appeared as though Jokinen had tied it up by finishing off a beautiful passing play from James Neal and Crosby – but the refs waved it off and play continued.
For another two minutes and 35 seconds.
Until Crosby, who had immediately raised his arms in celebration from the side of the net as he watched Jokinen’s shot go in, FINALLY got a stoppage when he alertly iced the puck so that the refs could review the play. And the captain was right – though it was in and out in the blink of an eye, Jokinen’s shot had definitely hit the netting (it clearly the underside of the water-bottle holder).
That meant the 2:35 the teams played had to be put back on the clock. Anything that happened during that time – shots, hits, turnovers, takeaways – did not count on the official scoresheet. It was like it never happened.
The Pens made sure they wouldn’t go into the first intermission down a goal when Pyatt tipped Rob Scuderi’s shot from the point past Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss with 4.1 seconds left in the period to even the score 2-2.
The goal topped off Pyatt’s finest shift as a Penguin. He was absolutely battling out there, using his size and strength to hold off two guys as he took it all the way around the net from the half wall and worked it back to Simon Despres at the point. From there, Pyatt beelined straight to the net, where he continued to make his presence known as he screened Greiss and was able to tip the puck past him.
“I just tried to get in on the forecheck,” Pyatt said. “The puck got back to the D. They went to the other D and got it toward the net. I was just able to get my stick on it. I lost it for a second. Then I turned and saw it in the net. It's definitely a nice feeling to get one.”
It was Pyatt’s third goal with the Pens, and his first since Jan. 22 vs. Montreal. And with the way it’d been going for him recently – he was a healthy scratch three out of the last four games entering tonight – it was definitely a big one for him.
“I'm trying to get back in the lineup and make a difference,” Pyatt said. “I was in and out the last little while. I'm trying to play with a little more confidence and make some plays. I felt better tonight, but disappointed we weren't able to get a win."
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