Penguins rally late but fall in overtime to Canucks
Through the first five games of the season, the Penguins have learned some hard lessons, coach Mike Sullivan said.
On Tuesday night, they learned that merely cleaning up their play with the puck and cutting out egregious mistakes wasn’t enough to earn two points in the standings.
Brock Boeser scored on a screened shot from the left wing 34 seconds into overtime to give the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins tightened things up after a rough first period. They took a territorial advantage throughout much of the second half of the game. They didn’t do enough in the offensive zone, though, and fell to 2-1-2 for the season.
“We’ve got to be willing to play a little bit of a grind game and create some offense that way,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t think we did enough of it tonight.”
Goalie Casey DeSmith blamed himself for the overtime goal, saying the puck found a hole under his right arm and his teammates deserved a better fate. He called it the team’s best game of the season.
“I think we were really solid,” DeSmith said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot, and we battled back, obviously, late in the game there. Showed a lot of character to tie it up. That’s a big reason why the loss in overtime really stings.”
DeSmith was probably being a little hard on himself. The Penguins dug themselves a hole with a poor first period. They were outshot 11-5 and gave up goals to Ben Hutton and former Penguins center Brandon Sutter to fall behind 2-1.
“I thought we were self-inflicting our own challenges in the first period with either poor decisions with the puck or just sloppy play with the puck,” Sullivan said.
In the second, the Penguins outshot the Canucks, 12-8, and had an advantage in scoring chances. Vancouver goalie Anders Nilsson, off to an impressive start to the season, kept them from tying the score.
In the third period, the Penguins pecked away at a Canucks defense that was content to flip the puck out of the defensive zone at the first sign of trouble.
Eventually, the second line scored a goal.
Evgeni Malkin picked up a puck in the defensive zone and started an odd-man rush the other way. Phil Kessel skated up the right wing and fed a pass through defenseman Erik Gudbranson to Carl Hagelin for a tap-in at the left post with 3:14 to go.
“We played better,” forward Derick Brassard said. “We were talking about taking steps every game. I think tonight wasn’t perfect, like any other game in the season, but we did some good things.”
Jake Guentzel also scored for the Penguins, keeping the puck on a first-period two-on-one with Sidney Crosby and connecting from the right wing. He has scored in all five games he has played against Vancouver in his career.
Otherwise, though, the Penguins didn’t mount enough of a consistent threat in the offensive zone.
Crosby went without a goal for the fifth straight game to start the season. The power play didn’t convert its only chance of the game.
Sullivan said the answer lies in the Penguins simplifying their offensive approach.
“We’ve got to look to shoot the puck more and create offense off of the rebound,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes it’s hard to make plays the way teams put back pressure on the puck. There’s a lot of sticks and legs in the high slot. We’re looking for that lateral play at the tops of the circles a lot of times, and it doesn’t materialize.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.