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Bruins' comeback shocks Pens at home

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010

Rock Bottom has a new home.

Up by two goals and dominant through two periods — they'd even scored on their first power play — the Penguins were tagged for four goals in the final period before an empty-net tally sealed the Boston Bruins' 7-4 victory at Consol Energy Center.

Remember this Wednesday night, even if the Penguins defensemen probably couldn't wait to forget, because it generated this assessment from trusted voice Brooks Orpik.

"Which one do you want to talk about?" he said of four third-period goals that were scored within about 13 minutes. "Take your pick, and I'll tell you.

"It's not that (other teams) are doing anything. I mean, everything they get, we give them. It's just (our) guys got to be accountable. Part of the problem is we're not playing to the situation. I mean, why are defensemen playing like forwards when we've got a 4-2 lead — this is the problem to me.

"We've got enough good forwards here. We don't need our defensemen playing like forwards when we're up 4-2."

The best of the Penguins' "good" forwards are centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who combined for five points — with Malkin possessing the puck with brilliance that harkened back to his scoring-title season two years ago.

He was the primary set-up-man on first-period goals by right wing Arron Asham and Orpik. Second-period goals from left wing Chris Kunitz and Crosby, whose 10th goal was deflected in by Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart on a late power play.

Defenseman Kris Letang assisted on those second-period goals, but he said the Penguins came out flat in the final period.

Coach Dan Bylsma didn't agree, but he could not argue that the play of his defense corps wasn't stout in the final 20 minutes — or at any point.

The Penguins, who fell to 7-8-1 (15 points), were credited with only eight giveaways.

That couldn't be an accurate count.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski cited "dumb plays," including his own — but referring specifically to third-period goals by center Nathan Horton (3:49), defenseman Zdeno Chara (4:04), left wing Shawn Thornton (12:40) and right wing Blake Wheeler (16:13).

The very defensemen who had combined for 36 points on the season had hung out to dry goalie Brent Johnson, who had stopped 94.3 percent of shots faced.

Perhaps a case of personal pursuits over team triumph?

"You hope not," defenseman Paul Martin said. "It's a team game. When you're up by that much, you rely on the system. Unless you're 100 percent sure you're going to get something, you have to back off and play defense."

Bylsma, whose system's design is for defensemen to quickly move the puck to forwards, admitted the Penguins "have not done that as well as we've needed to."

One thing the Penguins haven't done at all is concede they are playing like a team that lacks structure, especially on this 2-5-0 stretch.

"I didn't think the third period was overly bad, but we made mental errors, and those are the ones that cost you," Asham said. "It's frustrating. You're up 4-2 at home. It's usually a guaranteed win."

The season is young, but the Penguins probably need to forget about anything being guaranteed if they keep this up.

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