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Penguins

Penguins have nothing to show for massive statistical advantage in Washington

Jonathan Bombulie
| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, 5:36 a.m.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, talk with referee Wes McCauley (4) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. The Capitals won 2-1.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, talk with referee Wes McCauley (4) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. The Capitals won 2-1.

During his searing assessment of his team’s recent performance on his bi-weekly radio show on 105.9 FM, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said his major concern wasn’t exactly how many games his team lost in a row.

“I get more concerned about how we play,” Rutherford said. “Losing a game’s one thing. It’s how you lose the game.”

If that’s the case, Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals certainly didn’t make Rutherford’s concern any deeper. It may have even boosted his spirits a bit.

Statistically speaking, Wednesday night’s game was the Penguins’ best performance in a loss in Mike Sullivan’s tenure as head coach.

The Penguins piled up a 70-29 advantage in even-strength shot attempts. It’s the first time they’ve topped the 70-percent mark in shot-attempt percentage in any game since Sullivan took over in December of 2015.

Previously, their best shot-attempt percentage in a loss was 68.37 in a 2-1 loss to Buffalo in November of 2016.

“I thought we were better in all areas,” Sullivan said. “I thought we played with way more urgency. I thought we won puck battles. I thought we stopped on pucks. I thought we got the puck to the net. We were better in so many areas.”

Here’s a look at some numbers from the game that were undoubtedly infuriating in the Penguins locker room.

— When Sidney Crosby was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins outshot the Capitals, 17-2. They were outscored, 1-0.

— When Jake Guentzel was on the ice, the Penguins outshot the Capitals, 23-3. He got five shots on goalie Braden Holtby. He left with nothing to show for it.

— When Dominik Simon was on the ice at even strength, the Penguins outshot the Capitals, 8-1. For Kris Letang, it was 16-3. For Phil Kessel, 15-3. For Patric Hornqvist, it was 12-3.

— In the first period, the Penguins held the Capitals without a shot for a stretch of 9:49. At the end of the second and beginning of the third, they held the Capitals shotless for 11:40.

— In the third period, with the score tied 1-1, Kessel sprung Garrett Wilson for a breakaway. Holtby stopped Wilson from scoring his first NHL goal in his 35th game in the league.

—Carl Hagelin attempted six shots on the game, including one with Holtby out of position in a second-period net-front scramble. Only one hit the net.

Hagelin said he found the game more encouraging than frustrating, however.

“I think we were much harder on pucks,” Hagelin said. “We played simple hockey. When the plays were there to be made, we made them. Otherwise, we chipped it in and got a lot of offensive-zone pressure. We haven’t had that in a while.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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