Penguins' plans go up in smoke in road loss in Winnipeg
WINNIPEG, Manitoba – On the morning of Sidney Crosby's NHL debut in this city, he was asked how he might cope with the MTS Centre crowd's famed tormenting of opposing stars.
He would turn in two Grade A answers.
The immediate one: “I've played in Philly.”
The second, hours later and far louder: He scored two early goals to shut the place up.
And yet, despite that spark from the captain, despite two days of coaching emphasis on puck management, on slowing opposing wingers, on pushing the forecheck, all that followed for the Penguins was one whale of a fold in falling to Winnipeg, 4-2, Friday night.
The Jets scored the final four goals, including three in a second-period reversal that was as spirited in the seats as on the ice.
“We got away from our game, and they didn't,” Crosby said.
“It's obviously disappointing when you had a two-goal lead, no matter who you're playing but especially in a building like this that can get pretty hostile,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “The way we started out, the way Sid got those goals and took their fans out of it, that's a frustrating way to finish.”
The crowd, true to tradition since the Jets rejoined the NHL last season, teased Crosby in the opening minutes with a taunt of “Mario's pool boy.” It was a clear reference to Crosby having been Mario Lemieux's housemate for several years.
Coincidence or not, Crosby came out sharp enough to have scored with a skimmer, twice beating Ondrej Pavelec in the first 14:58.
Was he moved by the chant?
“I didn't hear it,” he said. “I figured they'd come up with something pretty original.”
Being original was the Penguins' goal, too, at least compared to the flatline 5-2 loss to Toronto Maple Leafs in the home opener two days earlier.
Instead, they lapsed right back.
Checking off Dan Bylsma and staff's stressed points in the run-up to this game:
• The Penguins committed a mindbending 19 turnovers — nine official giveaways, plus Winnipeg's 10 takeaways — notably left winger Matt Cooke's that allowed the Jets their first goal, 1:10 into the second period, on a tic-tac-toe gem finished by Evander Kane.
Bylsma blamed the location of the visiting bench – farthest from the defensive zone – for Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen being stuck on a long shift. But that couldn't explain Cooke's gaffe or the backtracking by the defense pair.
• Kane and Blake Wheeler, the Jets' top wingers, were allowed free rein through the neutral zone, much as Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs' speedy wingers were Wednesday.
“It was pretty back and forth again,” center Brandon Sutter said.
• The forecheck was effective in the first period and the early part of the second, largely because Crosby was ablaze. But the plan to make Winnipeg's lackluster defense uncomfortable badly fizzled from there.
“You've got to get it deep and force the other team's D to turn their backs toward you,” left winger Chris Kunitz said. “It's got to be a constant pressure game, kind of like what we played in Philly and New York.”
That trip might seem much longer ago than a week, given how sloppy the Penguins suddenly have become.
Still, Bylsma balked when asked about any similarity to the home opener.
“I think this game was different in terms of the mindset with which we played,” he said. “A turnover hurt us, but it's a situation we're well aware of.”
Next up will be addressing it, not in the mind but where it matters.
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Finally healthy, Letang looking to make his presence felt as a leader
- Inside the glass: Johnston’s opening practice grueling
- Penguins’ new 3rd jersey similar to early 1990s version
- Penguins notebook: Crosby practices, feels better
- Crosby appreciates his relationship with Penguins fans
- Penguins notebook: Hornqvist, Spaling will lead by example
- Crosby, Malkin to miss start of Penguins camp
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Penguins notebook: Martin not concerned about expiring contract