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Penguins feeling blue after loss to St. Louis

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
A puck bounces off the chest of Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak as the Penguins' Brandon Sutter (16) watches during the third period Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis. The Blues won 2-1.
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St. Louis Blues right wing Ryan Reaves celebrates his second-period goal against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Blues' Barret Jackman is hit by the Penguins' Deryk Engelland (second from left) as Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (left) and Brooks Orpik (right) get in on the play during the second period Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund (left) competes for the puck against Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
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St. Louis Blues right wing Ryan Reaves (75) and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland (5) fight during the first period Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (left) is defended by St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and goaltender Jaroslav Halak on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (right) collides with Penguins center Sidney Crosby on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
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Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) controls the puck as St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) pressures during the second period at the Scottrade Center.
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St. Louis Blues center Derek Roy (12) attempts to control the puck as Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) and Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) defend during the second period at the Scottrade Center.
The St. Louis Blues' Chris Stewart (right) tries to get his stick on the puck as Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury defends during the second period Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
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The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen (left) celebrates after scoring past St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) and Patrik Berglund (21) during the second period Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
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The St. Louis Blues' Maxim Lapierre runs over Sidney Crosby on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
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The Penguins' Sidney Crosby jumps out of the way of a passed puck Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
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ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Barret Jackman #5 of the St. Louis Blues knocks Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins off the puck at the Scottrade Center on November 9, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The Penguins' Jussi Jokinen celebrates his goal Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
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The Penguins' Pascal Dupuis brings the puck up ice Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
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ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins lines up for a face off against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on November 9, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The Penguins' Deryk Engelland (left) and St. Louis Blues' Ryan Reaves fight during the first period Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in St. Louis.
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The Penguins' Kris Letang attempts to clear the puck Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — So this is what the Penguins could look like.

Well, up front, anyway.

Actually, they could look better than this, too.

“With our team, we want to come in waves, with intensity, and we have the guys to do that,” right winger James Neal said.

The Penguins had all of their offensive guys, and they played with intensity — but their waves did little damage against the St. Louis Blues' barrier-like defense in a 2-1 loss at Scottrade Center on Saturday night.

Neal and Beau Bennett, in returns from respective 15- and 11-game absences, contributed three of the Penguins' season-low 20 shots.

Only five of those shots came in the third period, where a first-goal credited to Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk broke a 1-1 tie.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (30 saves) said he was not sure how that puck snuck by him, only that he felt it bounce strangely off a seldom-hit spot on the right leg pad.

The Penguins (11-6-0, 22 points) have lost consecutive games after winning four in a row, but coach Dan Bylsma is pleased with the response by his players after a 5-1 loss at the New York Rangers on Wednesday night that left a lot of people disgusted.

Bylsma now has three days, two of which will feature practices, to work with the forwards he and general manager Ray Shero figured could become regulars.

Perhaps nobody associated with the Penguins will appreciate the return of Neal, a former 40-goal scorer, more than center Evgeni Malkin, who has gone 10 games without a goal. Neal is his regular right-side sniper, and Malkin — so rattled by his recent run without goals that he has tried wearing all new equipment — looked invigorated against St. Louis.

His sharp feed set up left winger Jussi Jokinen, whose eighth goal on a second-period power play pulled the Penguins even, 1-1. Neal also assisted.

Malkin had scored only two goals and recorded just nine points since Bennett — Neal's initial replacement on the second line — was injured Oct. 12.

The injuries to Neal and Bennett did more than just mess up Malkin.

A fourth line that had showed promise was broken up to fill vacancies throughout the lineup.

So, in addition to Malkin welcoming back Neal, whom he affectionately refers to as “lazy,” center Joe Vitale — playing for the second time in his native St. Louis — embraced a reunion with wingers Tanner Glass and Craig Adams.

“When we talked about the quality of our fourth line, I don't think you're going to see them match the effectiveness of a (Sidney) Crosby line or a Malkin line,” Bylsma said, “but they were playing well to allow me to roll four (lines).

“We counted on them. I can count on them to play against just about anybody.”

The Penguins' 17th game provided Bylsma a first chance to actually test the projected third line.

Matt D'Agostini, playing in only his third game, had missed the opening 10 games because of a lower-body injury sustained in training camp. Bennett was already injured when he returned for two games before serving the previous four as a healthy scratch.

Brandon Sutter has played with eight different wingers this season, but Bylsma's wish is for a third line to settle with D'Agostini to the left and Bennett to the right of Sutter.

That was the look against the Blues — and if not for Rob Scuderi's broken ankle and Paul Martin's absence for reasons undisclosed, the Penguins would have looked like the squad constructed by Shero.

Bylsma still has enjoyed only three full periods with his top six defensemen healthy. “We're getting healthier,” Bylsma said.

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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