Coyotes clamp down on punchless Penguins

| Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009

The Penguins quieted preseason concerns of a Stanley Cup hangover during two victories to start the campaign.

In the third game of the season, however, they looked plenty hungover.

The Penguins were short-handed nine times in a Coyote Ugly of a performance, losing to Phoenix, 3-0, before a sellout crowd at Mellon Arena.

A trip to Philadelphia tonight awaits the Penguins.

"For whatever reason," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said, "some guys had a tough night. We got ourselves in a hole early. We didn't play well."

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held off the scoresheet for the first time this season, and both were guilty of unnecessary penalties.

Malkin's four-minute high-sticking penalty resulted in the game's first goal.

Phoenix's Ed Jovanovski fired a shot from the right dot that beat Penguins goalie Brent Johnson to the stick side.

Crosby was assessed two slashing penalties in the second period and admitted to feeling frustrated.

"We got distracted," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We weren't feeling good about how we were playing and we did get frustrated. It's not something you see a lot from our players."

The Coyotes nearly took a 2-0 lead 90 seconds later, but Johnson made a spectacular save on Shane Doan, who found himself open in front of the cage.

Johnson's performance was a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable game. He stopped 22 of 24 shots in his first game since January.

"I was a little bit nervous because I hadn't played in so long," Johnson said. "I feel pretty good about how I played."

A terrific individual effort gave the Coyotes a two-goal lead in the second period when former Rangers forward Petr Prucha scored a power-play goal while sprawled on the ice. He and Mark Eaton were both down in front of the Penguins' net when Prucha found the puck and managed to lift it over Johnson.

"It was a heck of a play," Johnson said. "I actually thought the puck was under me."

The Penguins appeared to cut into the lead with 5:29 remaining in the second period when Alex Goligoski fired a wrist shot past Ilya Bryzgalov. Only a moment before the goal, however, Penguins forward Matt Cooke was assessed an interference penalty.

Goligoski nearly helped the Penguins score again with under a minute remaining in the period. His rush initiated an opportunity that saw Ruslan Fedotenko look for an open Malkin by the right post.

Phoenix defenseman James Vandermeer, however, lunged to break up Fedotenko's pass.

Although the Coyotes appeared to outwork the Penguins much of the evening, Bylsma simply thought Phoenix's excellent execution created this impression.

"When you pay attention to detail like they did, it makes it look like you're working harder," Bylsma said. "Having to kill eight minutes of penalties in the first period is a way to make the other team look like it's playing well."

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett echoed Bylsma's sentiments.

"I'm sure the people in Pittsburgh didn't like that they were on the penalty kill for seven and a half minutes in the first period," he said. "But I thought our speed and competitiveness drew some of those penalties."

The third period was much of the same for the Penguins, who were simply unable to stay out of the penalty box. Few scoring chances, nor the trademark forecheck that has been evident under Bylsma, were evident.

"There's no excuse for it," Crosby said.

Phoenix was playing only its second game of the season after having opened with an impressive 6-3 victory at Los Angeles.

"They played well," Johnson said. "I don't know if it was the refereeing or what. We just couldn't get going."

This marked the first time the Penguins have been shut out during regular-season action under Bylsma. They were blanked twice in last year's playoffs.

"Everyone is going to bring their best against us," Cooke said. "We have to expect that."

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