Listless Penguins drop 2nd consecutive game
NEW YORK — Coach Dan Bylsma has won a Stanley Cup and the Jack Adams Award during his tenure with the Penguins, but he takes just as much pride in the fact his team always plays hard.
But it didn't appear that way Wednesday night.
The Penguins, 24 hours removed from seeing their 15-game winning streak snapped, played their worst game of the season in a 6-1 setback against the New York Rangers, the NHL's lowest-scoring team.
The Penguins learned quite a lesson: Just because they have assembled arguably the most talent in hockey doesn't mean they can simply show up and win.
“I thought the compete level in the Rangers was very, very high,” Bylsma said. “And we certainly didn't match it.”
From the game's opening shift, the desperate Rangers — they moved into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race — controlled the tempo, created turnovers and won the special teams battle and seemingly every one-on-one battle.
“I think we got outworked all night,” said left wing Tanner Glass, who fought former Penguins right wing Arron Asham for the second time this season. “We had no oomph in our game tonight. I don't know where it was.”
The Penguins were playing without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Mark Eaton and newly acquired Jussi Jokinen, but they didn't make excuses. Rather, they took responsibility for the fact they were beaten in every way by a Rangers team that enjoyed four goals and four assists from three players — Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard and John Moore — who were making their debuts in New York.
“There's no question they were hungrier than we were,” center Brandon Sutter said. “We didn't have our battle level tonight. They won every single battle.”
The Penguins fell behind, 3-0, in the first period and allowed the Rangers to score three power-play goals in four opportunities. Although the Penguins don't often lose, it's difficult to ignore the trends in their losses.
In their 10 setbacks, the Penguins have been outscored, 45-19. They have been short-handed 50 times in those games, allowing opponents five power plays per game. The Penguins have killed only 69 percent of their penalties in those games.
“We certainly weren't good enough on the PK,” right wing Craig Adams said. “That's not going to win you too many games.”
Given the number of significant players out of their lineup and that they played 24 hours earlier, the Penguins would have seemed vulnerable.
Still, to play such uninspired hockey while in a battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference left the team with a bad taste.
“This was a divisional opponent,” Glass said. “We have a very good chance of seeing them down the road. We're pretty disappointed right now.”
Even without Crosby and three of their top six defensemen, the Penguins rank among the league's most talented teams.
“You don't just need to put the jersey on,” Bylsma said. “Hockey's a much different sport than that. Winning at hockey has little to do with the names you have on your back.”
The Penguins insist they received the message.
“Bottom line is we need to focus on our next two games,” Sutter said. “We aren't too happy with our last two, especially tonight. We need to be better.”