Penguins' leads evaporate in loss to Sharks
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Something about playing in San Jose doesn't work for the Penguins.
And it starts at the top.
Sidney Crosby endured one of the worst games of his career as the Penguins fell to the Sharks, 5-3, on Thursday at SAP Center.
Crosby after the game sat at his locker, flipping an empty bottle of water to his side. He was a minus-5 with no points and only one shot.
It was déjà vu for the Penguins' captain in this building.
“Not good enough,” Crosby said.
In four games in San Jose, Crosby has only one point — an assist — and is a minus-9. The Penguins haven't won in San Jose since 1997 but appeared on their way after taking a 2-0 lead.
But then the Sharks' physical play took over, and the Penguins looked overwhelmed.
“They play not only a physical game but a fast game,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “In the second half of the game, we just weren't able to negate that.”
Defenseman Olli Maatta, who was 2 when the Penguins last won in San Jose, was one of few Penguins to turn in a good game. He scored twice, including a third-period goal that gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead.
San Jose evened the game moments earlier on a Crosby miscue.
The Penguins led 2-1 in the third period and found themselves on a four-minute power play. But a lackluster effort through more than three minutes became worse when Crosby's turnover led to a goal.
Crosby attempted to hit defenseman Simon Despres on a backdoor play, but the pass was intercepted. Forward Patrick Marleau found himself one-on-one with Evgeni Malkin.
Thirty seconds earlier, Malkin snuffed Marleau on a similar rush. This time, Marleau got the best of him and beat goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who was bombarded in the final two periods. For the game, the Sharks outshot the Penguins, 47-22.
“You just can't allow shorthanded goals,” Crosby said. “(Zatkoff) kept us in the game all night.”
After Maatta's second goal gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead, Brent Burns evened the contest, and then captain Joe Thornton scored the winner when his wrist shot from long range beat Zatkoff.
Burns added an empty-netter.
“That was one of the best games I've ever seen Brent Burns play,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “He was almost a bully out there.”
It was fitting that two of the Sharks' big men — Thornton (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and Burns (6-5, 225 pounds) — scored the difference-makers. It was a microcosm of the Sharks' physicality wearing the Penguins down.
“They play playoff-style hockey,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “They try to wear you down. They throw pucks at the net, score dirty goals. That's what they did tonight. We had enough going the other way early in the game. As the game went on, they took over. We were hanging on, but they eventually got the best of us.”
The Penguins' pride wasn't the only thing wounded.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo left with an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return. His availability for Friday's game in Anaheim is unknown.
Left wing Chris Kunitz absorbed a nasty hit to the head from Burns in the second period but returned in the third.
Bylsma's team didn't have any answers for the Sharks' style.
“That's as physical as we've played in a while,” McLellan said. “We were engaged.”
Finding ways to deal with bigger teams and protecting leads will be among the Penguins' chief concerns as the playoffs near.
“There were a few lessons learned,” Crosby said.