Lowly Flyers surprise Penguins, 2-1
The Penguins are not scoring.
They have one goal in each of the past three games, all losses — the latest to the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night.
They have won only four of their past 10, scoring only seven goals in those six defeats.
This all comes on the heels of an end to their Stanley Cup playoff run when they scored only twice as Boston swept them from the Eastern Conference final.
“It's always a concern,” left winger Chris Kunitz said of the offensive struggles from the East final and the past few weeks. “We're a team that prides ourselves on being able to go out there and play the right way, get scoring chances.”
Kunitz correctly noted in the Penguins' previous loss, 2-1 at St. Louis on Saturday night, that they did not generate many scoring chances, though coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday morning his squad is capable of winning — and, in fact, had won — games with fewer opportunities.
The Penguins did not lack chances against the Flyers, especially in the third period, which they entered down by one after goals in the first and second from Philadelphia center Brayden Schenn.
Right winger James Neal missed to the left of Flyers goalie Ray Emery when the Penguins had a power play with about seven minutes remaining.
Bylsma mentioned that one and other scoring chances not capitalized on by Kunitz and defenseman Brooks Orpik.
Orpik is not a reputable scorer, though. Captain Sidney Crosby is, and his power-play goal in the second period — the first on the advantage by either him or Evgeni Malkin in 44 consecutive opportunities dating to Oct. 15 — snapped a goal drought of seven games.
Still, Crosby also could not best Emery on a partial breakaway later in the period, and the Penguins spent much of the final minutes before the second intermission trying to kill off Flyers' power plays.
They nearly did, but Schenn's second of the game — scored from in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and behind defenseman Kris Letang, whose back was to the crease — staked the Flyers to a lead they would not lose.
Malkin, whose saucer pass from the right half-wall led to Crosby's redirection-goal, has gone 11 straight games without a marker. Right winger Pascal Dupuis is without a goal in 12 consecutive contests.
Neal has yet to score a goal this season, though he has played in only two full games.
The Penguins are known for their offense, and not just historically for the likes of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
This group is led by Crosby and Malkin, winners of a combined three scoring titles, and Letang, the only defenseman to average a point per game last season. Neal is a former 40-goal scorer. Kunitz and Dupuis — Crosby's regular linemates, and each given new contracts in the offseason — totaled 133 goals the previous three seasons.
Those six players combine to count for about $29.88 million of the $64.3 million salary cap, or around 46.5 percent.
The Penguins (11-7-0, 22 points) are built to win with them scoring goals. In the past 10 games, those six players have contributed nine goals — all but two, scored by Crosby, coming from Kunitz and Letang.
“We're going to be in those one-goal games, the 1-0, 2-1 games, and you've got to learn how to win those,” Neal said.
The Penguins' season ended in June with back-to-back one-goal losses at Boston, defeats of 2-1 and 1-0. They don't need reminded of that — but as Kunitz suggested, that memory is kind of hanging there every time they fail to score a lot for a few games.
That is happening, again.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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