Penguins overcome poor PK in beating Toronto
TORONTO — Pascal Dupuis would answer the question if he could.
What is wrong with the Penguins' penalty kill?
“If I knew, I'd correct it right away,” he said after the Penguins' 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Center on Saturday night.
Center Evgeni Malkin did not play in overtime — perfection in the shootout by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made sure he was not needed there — because of an upper-body injury, coach Dan Bylsma said.
Malkin, playing a third straight game after missing four in a row with a concussion, was hit hard by Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk late in regulation. He was not available for comment.
The Penguins have won four in a row though they really don't know what to say about a penalty kill that has given up 21 goals.
Opponents scored 33 power-play goals against the Penguins last season — their second in a row at top three on the penalty kill.
“It should give us more confidence that we'll be able to find a way to get it done,” captain Sidney Crosby said of the penalty kill. “Every PK is a new one. It doesn't matter what you've done in the past; you've got to find a way to kill that one.”
Bylsma echoed that sentiment after the victory, noting the Penguins' only kill against the Maple Leafs came while protecting a 4-3 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining and defenseman Brooks Orpik serving a minor penalty for interference.
A late tying goal by Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel would have meant little had the Penguins not twice blown leads — 1-0 in the first, 3-1 in the second — because of Toronto power-play goals.
The Maple Leafs went 2 for 3 on the power play.
The Penguins (17-8-0, 34 points) have won four in a row, and their lead on second-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division is seven points.
Only 23 games remain for the Penguins, who will play the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center on Sunday night.
There is no secret what they would like to work on.
“You can always say you're not getting the bounces, and sometimes that's the case,” defenseman Paul Martin said.
“We expect a lot more out of ourselves. It's something we've spent a lot of time on. It's hard. When you feel like things aren't going right – that's why (teammates) are saying we're thinking too much. Everyone believes we have the right crew to do it, but when things aren't going well you start to question if you're in the right spot, if you should go here or there. If someone misses an assignment you have to cover for them.
“We have too much of that as opposed to just going out there, doing our job and letting it take care of itself.”
Fortunately, the Penguins, with 16 games of three or more goals, score enough to overcome just about any shortcoming.
Goals by right winger James Neal and captain Sidney Crosby won the shootout, and both players also marked in regulation. Neal notched his 16th, four more than Crosby's 12. Right winger Pascal Dupuis added his ninth, and Martin was credited with his fifth.
The Penguins were disciplined, taking only three penalties. That was a nice change of pace; only eight teams had been shorthanded more often before games played Saturday.
However, when it comes to the ailing penalty kill, there is an elephant in the room in the form of players no longer with the Penguins.
Center Jordan Staal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek were traded last summer. Michalek led defensemen last season in shorthanded ice time, and Staal was second among forwards.
Still, the losses of those stout defensive players — Staal is a former Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) finalist — does not explain how 28 percent of opposing goals have come from the power play.
“We have to be better,” Dupuis said. “It seems like the PK goals have been (fluky), but I'm pretty confident we'll turn it around.”