Listless Penguins absorb blowout loss
DALLAS — The Penguins certainly stuck up for one another Wednesday in Dallas.
They didn’t, however, do anything else particularly well.
On a night when Brent Johnson finally looked mortal, the power play looked something far less than mortal and Sidney Crosby dropped the gloves, Dallas emerged with a dominant 5-2 victory.
“In a game where we got out-battled and out-played, I’d say it’s a concern,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Many of the Penguins agreed it was their worst performance of the season, something that was hard to argue.
Johnson entered the game on a hot streak but did not play well, allowing five goals on 29 shots. Of course, he was the least of the Penguins’ worries.
“We aren’t happy,” Penguins forward Mike Rupp said. “We got out-worked. They out-executed us. They played with a purpose, and we didn’t.”
Crosby was plenty purposeful late in the second period. With the Penguins down, 4-1, Brenden Morrow initiated a fight with Kris Letang. Two seconds later, Crosby took exception to the play and fought defenseman Matt Niskanen. Crosby unloaded a number of right hands on Niskanen, clearly winning the flight.
“It was about five seconds before that Morrow grabbed Tanger,” Crosby said. “I figured it was the right response.”
If the Penguins were a little frustrated, it was for good reason.
Now 0 for 27 on the power play over the past six games, the Penguins have not scored with a man advantage since Oct. 18 against Ottawa.
“We just couldn’t find a way to get it going tonight,” Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said.
Adding insult to injury, the Penguins went 0 for 4 on the power play against the league’s worst penalty-killing unit. In the first period, down 2-0 after Stephane Robidas and Brad Richards scored early goals, the Penguins had a golden opportunity to claw back into the game when they were awarded a 5-on-3 advantage for 97 seconds.
Not only did the Penguins not generate anything resembling a quality scoring opportunity during that stretch, they only recorded one shot on goal.
“We’ve had a few five-on-threes,” Crosby said. “It’s something we can improve on. Tonight we had an opportunity and we didn’t generate a whole lot.”
Although Tyler Kennedy would later score to cut Dallas’ lead in half, the Penguins were never really in the game.
Steve Ott gave Dallas a 3-1 lead later in the second period and Loui Eriksson scored on the first penalty shot of his career, coolly beating Johnson with a backhand move after being pulled down from behind by Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski.
Erikkson scored again in the anticlimactic third period, and Matt Cooke scored his third goal of the season late.
Bylsma voiced his displeasure about the struggling power play, especially the uneventful two-man advantage.
“That’s a big opportunity to come up big for our team,” Bylsma said. “We didn’t execute well.”
The only thing that pleased Bylsma about his team’s performance was the toughness the Penguins displayed. Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Kennedy and Letang engaged in fights. Bylsma was particularly pleased with Kennedy’s response to a couple of heavy Dallas hits directed toward Evgeni Malkin.
“I like TK at the end of the first,” Bylsma said. “They took a couple of liberties with Geno. He went right in there. I like the way our team got together.”
But he didn’t like the way his team played.
In fact, no one did.
The Penguins (6-6-1) play Friday in Anaheim.
“We’re .500,” Rupp said. “If you had told us at the beginning of the year that we’d be .500 at this point, we wouldn’t be very happy. We expect a lot more.”