Pens' offensive woes continue in loss to Devils
NEWARK, N.J. — This is what a funk looks like: Evgeni Malkin planted in the blue paint of the goal crease but the puck moving the other way instead of behind Martin Brodeur — and that becomes the eventual losing goal.
“We've had chances the last five games,” right winger James Neal said after the Penguins bested Brodeur with only one of 28 shots in a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at Prudential Center.
“The puck's not going in the net, obviously. The chances are there. We've got to bear down and put the puck in the net and score more than once. That's it.”
The loss looked like so many of their seven defeats in 12 games since opening the season 7-1-0.
They dominated early, generating 16 shot attempts to the Devils' 13 — five of which New Jersey had blocked, another five it missed on.
Still, the Devils led 1-0 after the first period on a goal from defenseman Andy Greene. The Devils led 2-1 after the second period on a goal from defenseman Adam Larsson.
That goal finished a rush that was started with Malkin standing in the crease, looking for a puck he expected to be anywhere but going the other way on an odd-man rush for the Devils.
Malkin has not scored a goal in 13 games, the worst stretch of his eight-year career, one that has included two scoring titles, an MVP in the regular season and playoffs, and the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins have scored only 25 goals in their past 12 games, and they are averaging only 2.66 through 21 games.
They averaged an NHL-best 3.38 goals per game in 48 contests during a lockout-shortened last season.
This actually is not the worst 21-game start of coach Dan Bylsma's tenure.
The 2009-10 campaign, Bylsma's first full season, opened with the Penguins scoring 57 goals in their first 21 games. Their average goals (2.71) was better then, but the Penguins scored two or fewer goals seven times over that span, including three losses by a shutout and three in which they marked only once.
These Penguins (12-8-0, 24 points) have lost four of five games and scored a goal apiece in each of those defeats.
Tension is considerably lacking — center Brandon Sutter says so, anyway — for a club that has so many guys struggling so much.
Left winger Chris Kunitz snapped a modest four-game goal drought with his ninth against the Devils.
However, captain Sidney Crosby has one goal in 10 games and is without a multiple-point game in eight contests. Malkin had his streak of six games with at least an assist snapped.
Right wingers Pascal Dupuis and James Neal have combined to score four goals, though Neal has played in only five games.
Still, right winger Jaromir Jagr matched half of their total against the Penguins, beating goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with about four minutes remaining in regulation and scoring into an empty net in the final seconds.
Those goals made the Devils one of only four of the Penguins' past 12 opponents to score more than twice.
The Penguins have allowed an average of 2.33 goals over the past dozen games, but the woeful offense has failed to capitalize on that defensive prowess.
Crosby noted an opportunity in this loss to claim two points by winning a close game in the third period. His club attempted 15 shots. Only three were blocked and just one was missed.
The Penguins forced Brodeur to make 12 saves — a building block, perhaps, for a group that could use a boost.
“I don't know if that's been a common thing,” Crosby said, “but we certainly had our fair amount of chances.”