Matt Murray pulled as Penguins’ winning streak ends with loss to Blues
For most of the last few weeks, almost everything was going right for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top line.
On Saturday afternoon, almost everything went wrong.
Sidney Crosby couldn’t get a handful of brilliant scoring chances past goalie Jordan Binnington, Crosby and linemates Jake Guentzel and Jared McCann were on the ice for the first three St. Louis goals and the Blues cruised to a 5-1 victory at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins, who had won six of their previous seven games, saw a three-game winning streak end.
“It’s tough when you feel like you’re not giving them much and then you give them a couple of real quality ones like that,” Crosby said. “I’m late to get to a guy a couple times, and it ends up in the back of the net. It’s tough. We still had a lot of hockey to be played and just couldn’t climb our way back into it.”
While the third-place Penguins stayed within two points of the second-place New York Islanders, who were upset by Detroit, the loss left the door open for the teams behind them to close the gap in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I think our mentality has to be a playoff one,” Crosby said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, and you’ve got to be able to forget about it. Fortunately, we play tomorrow. Our mindset has got to be on that and making sure we find a way to come out of that with two points.”
On the play that led to St. Louis’ first goal, Guentzel covered for a pinching Brian Dumoulin, but he got caught up with Colton Parayko while trying to defend a rush. Former Penguins center Oskar Sundqvist scored from the top of the right circle.
The play that became St. Louis’ second goal started with a Guentzel turnover inside the defensive blue line. Vince Dunn scored on an open shot from the slot.
On the third St. Louis goal, Crosby won an offensive-zone faceoff, but McCann couldn’t corral the puck. Jordan Thomas counterattacked and centered to Patrick Maroon to make it 3-0.
Coming into the game, the Penguins had been outscoring opponents 60-24 when Crosby and Guentzel were on the ice together at five-on-five this season.
On Saturday, the tables turned.
“That line has been great for us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’re three guys that have played so well for us. We’ve got to do a better job on two of them of making sure that we come back, and we don’t get beat back up the ice and we stop and defend the scoring area, but certainly I’m not going to overthink that. I know that line will respond the right way.”
When Jay Bouwmeester scored 70 seconds after Maroon to make it 4-0, goalie Matt Murray was pulled after stopping 9 of 13 shots.
After the game, Sullivan said the Penguins need to do a better job protecting the slot in front of Murray. The goalie didn’t necessarily see it that way.
“They had a few really good chances, and I wasn’t able to make the saves,” Murray said. “I definitely have to be better. As a team, I think we played a pretty good game for the most part.”
Murray’s goaltending counterpart, Jordan Binnington, had no such problems at the other end. He turned in a spectacular, 40-save performance, including stops on Crosby on a power-play one-timer in the first period and a breakaway in the second.
“We get behind the 8-ball a bit with our start,” Crosby said. “We were chasing the game and unfortunately couldn’t put anything in to get ourselves back in the game.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .