Penguins end road trip with loss in Philly
PHILADELPHIA — Throughout much of the last month, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has kept a stiff upper lip on the topic of injuries.
Part of the game, he would say. Every team goes through it. Next man up.
On Wednesday night, after a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, a hint of frustration finally cracked through that exterior.
Already playing without three of their top eight defensemen, the Penguins were forced to play a man short on the blue line for the second straight game when Ron Hainsey didn't come out of the locker room after the second intermission.
“We've got a lot of guys with some overextended minutes right now that we're trying to do a better job to manage,” Sullivan said. “It's tough when you go down players during the game, especially on the blue line. Guys are forced to have to play minutes. That's just the nature of the business, and it seems like it's been happening to us every game so far this road trip. Hopefully we can try to stay healthy here down the stretch.”
Sullivan didn't have an update on Hainsey's condition after the game.
Some of the defensemen picking up excess minutes, players like Ian Cole and Justin Schultz who haven't been prone to turnovers most of this season, made miscues that turned into Flyers goals.
Sullivan was in no mood to rip them for it.
“When you're playing the type of minutes those guys are playing, sometimes mistakes are a part of it,” Sullivan said. “You try not to make the types of plays like that that result in Grade-A opportunities, but these guys have played extremely hard for us. They've played lots of minutes. For the most part, they're playing pretty solid hockey.”
The injury-riddled Penguins were wrapping up a five-game road trip that spanned four times zones. Because of the weather, they flew into Philadelphia on Wednesday on the morning of the game.
“We knew this was going to be a tough one coming into it,” Sullivan said. “We obviously didn't have the juice that we normally have. That made it hard.”
Given those circumstances, the Penguins' best chance to come away with points in the standings was to claim an early lead and sit on it.
The power play had two chances to strike in the first half of the game — once late in the first period and once early in the second — but struggled with zone entries and sputtered badly.
“It would have been nice to get some momentum off of that early,” center Sidney Crosby said.
Instead, Philadelphia claimed momentum for good with two goals in a six-minute span of the second period.
Brayden Schenn stopped a Schultz pass at the left half-wall to start a scoring play one minute in. Schenn threw the puck to the net, Dale Weise redirected it on goal and Sean Couturier buried the rebound at the right post.
About five minutes later, on the Flyers' third power play of the game, Ivan Provorov made an outstanding keep-in on a Matt Cullen clearing attempt at the left point and sent a pass across the ice to Shayne Gostisbehere for a shot. Wayne Simmonds cleaned up the rebound in front.
“They played pretty well. They played desperate,” goalie Matt Murray said. “I think they flat out outplayed us today.”
The Penguins are one of the best comeback teams in the league, winning eight times this season when trailing after two periods, but there was no rally on this night.
The line of Crosby, Jake Guentzel and continued to buzz around the opposition's net, but Steve Mason made 23 saves to record his third shutout of the season.
“To fall behind isn't putting yourself in a great scenario at any time,” Crosby said, “but especially given it's the last game of the trip here, that didn't help us.”