Pens stuck in a slump
The thing about slumping teams facing each other is only one of those skids can end.
On Tuesday night at Mellon Arena, it was the 14th-place Florida Panthers’ nose-dive that took a turn up, while the Penguins are still on the decline after a 3-2 loss that left several players shaking their heads.
“It’s getting to the point where, I thought we were as desperate as we could be, but we didn’t play that way,” Mark Recchi said. “There’s no urgency right now. It’s pretty disappointing. We have to grow up pretty quick here.”
Erik Christensen and Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins (11-11-4), but they’ve now won only four times in their last 16 games since starting the season 7-3.
The Panthers went into the game only one point ahead of the last-place Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference and winless in their last six games (0-5-1).
The Penguins were in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and 13th place in the conference, only two points behind the three teams directly ahead of them. They had only one win in their last six games.
Talk in the morning was that the game was a must-win.
But after the Panthers scored to tie it in the first then took the lead going into the third period, the Penguins were forced to battle from behind yet again and, again, fell short.
“Every team, one through 30, is going to be good,” Crosby said. “They can beat anyone any given night. It doesn’t matter if they’re winless in 10 or won 10 in a row. It doesn’t matter. You can go out there and bring your A-game and not win. But it’s those timely plays that we need, and we haven’t gotten those.”
Crosby scored his 50th career goal to tie the game with only 10 minutes left to play on a spectacular individual effort, splitting defensemen Ruslan Salei and Jay Bouwmeester and then getting the shot off while being knocked to the ice.
Four minutes later, the game was back in the Panthers’ hands, however, after Olli Jokinen’s power-play goal to win it at 14:53. Dominic Moore was in the box for hooking, Jokinen came off the right boards and took a slapshot, using teammate Stephen Weiss as a screen to beat goaltender Jocelyn Thibault for the game winner.
“I saw the release off his stick — that was the last thing I can remember,” said Thibault, who made 27 saves but is still looking for his first win of the season (0-4-1). “I knew he was going weak-side. I thought I had everything covered. … I have to keep the score 2-2 right there. It’s frustrating. I wish I could have made that save somehow.”
It was the Panthers’ second power-play goal on six chances after they’d failed to score on the power play (0 for 17) in their previous four games.
Coach Michel Therrien promised that there will be a reevaluation of the team’s penalty kill before Thursday’s game at the New York Rangers.
“Penalty killing didn’t do the job again,” Therrien said. “Lately, we give up one, two goals per game. We’re not going to win games. We’re going to have to sit down and think about if we can use different players because right now it doesn’t work with the role we’re trying to give some players.”
The crowd of 12,511 was the smallest at Mellon Arena this year.
Karen Price is a former freelancer.