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Penguins suffer yet another injury in loss to Kings

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:51 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Marcel Goc goes down with an ankle injury against the Kings on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Sidney Crosby missed pulling the Penguins even in the waning seconds Thursday night.

Brandon Sutter thought he had done that about nine minutes earlier.

Those two have something else in common, too: They are the only healthy centers on the roster.

Marcel Goc was injured — joining previously downed Evgeni Malkin — in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Consol Energy Center.

Coach Dan Bylsma said he did not have an update on Goc, whose left foot bent backward as he slid into the end-zone boards after a second-period puck race with Kings defensemen Jake Muzzin and Alex Martinez.

“It's a lower-body injury,” Bylsma said.

The Penguins (46-22-5, 97 points) will try to snap a three-game losing skid Friday night at Columbus, and a team strength five days ago is an area of concern. Malkin, their second-leading scorer, is out 2-3 weeks with a hairline fracture in his foot.

The absence of Goc would leave the Penguins with Crosby, the captain and top center, and Sutter, elevated to No. 2 because of Malkin's injury, and not a lot of other preferable options.

Winger Jussi Jokinen can play center. So, too, can forward Craig Adams, as he did on the fourth line against Los Angeles. Coaches prefer both on the wing.

The Penguins are at 455 man-games lost to injury and on a 6-7-2 slide since the Olympic break.

Also in that span, the Penguins have scored 12 power-play goals and surrendered 10. They had scored 48 and allowed 22 before the Olympics.

Center Jeff Carter scored on a late first-period power play for the Kings, and Martinez marked just as time expired on a second-period advantage.

In their last three losses, all at home, each by a goal, the Penguins have allowed an opponent to score within a few seconds or just as a power play had expired.

“When you say it's a key, you're even or plus on special teams,” Bylsma said. “When you're minus, you're on a different side of it.”

The Penguins have been minus in four of their past eight games, losing in every instance.

Their last victory — 4-3 in overtime against Tampa Bay on Saturday — featured three power-play goals. Otherwise, the league's top power play is in a 2-for-33 funk.

They went 0 for 7 on the power play, generating 11 shots on advantages against the Kings.

“This time of year, everyone's playing a little bit tighter — teams are more desperate (and) blocking shots, collapsing around the net,” Crosby said. “Both (our) power play and penalty kill have to get a little bit more gritty.”

Sutter engaged in a hard net-front battle — actually, he was in the blue paint, as were several Kings players — with the Penguins on their sixth power play near the midpoint of the third period. He swiped the puck behind goalie Martin Jones for what was celebrated by a sellout crowd as a tying goal with 9:41 remaining.

No call was made by on-ice officials, and the sequence was reviewed at the NHL's Toronto offices. The goal was not awarded to Sutter because he interfered with the goaltender, referee Steve Kozari said over the arena public address system.

“There's no explanation due to me about the process they went through,” Bylsma said.

With the goalie pulled to give the Penguins an extra attacker, a puck jumped high off Crosby's stick — though, even for the NHL scoring leader, a goal in that situation would have seemed somewhat lucky.

These Penguins are not getting much of that these days, anyway.

“We battled hard, played hard, had some good goaltending and some big saves for us and played a good team,” Sutter said. “But things just aren't going our way.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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