Penguins notebook: NHL's lesser lights prove troublesome
On Sunday, the Penguins played a home game against a middle-of-the-road Carolina team starting its back-up goalie and scored a convincing 5-0 win.
On Monday, the Penguins played their back-up goalie on the road against a big, talented St. Louis team and suffered a 5-2 loss.
They won a game they were expected to win, and lost a game they were expected to lose.
Perhaps surprisingly, that has been the exception and not the rule for the Penguins for much of this season.
The Penguins have their share of good wins. They're 4-1-1 against the top six playoff teams in the East, for instance, owning victories over division-leading Washington and Florida.
They also have their share of bad losses. They're 1-3-1 against the worst four teams in the Western Conference, suffering defeats at the hands of squads such as Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.
In other words, the Penguins' results have not been dictated in any meaningful way by the quality of their opposition.
“When the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing their best hockey, we're an incredibly difficult team to beat, whether you're the best team in the league or the worst,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “Along the same lines, when we're not playing well, we can lose to anybody.”
“Since (coach) Mike (Sullivan) has been here, he's really focused on us. We can win a game and we'll come in the next morning and watch video of the game, and you leave feeling like you lost because he wants us to clean up our game. He's not satisfied with one win here, one win there. He wants us to be consistent.
“We're getting better at it, but we're not perfect yet.”
In one of the more entertaining two-minute stretches of the season, Evgeni Malkin and St. Louis star Vladimir Tarasenko traded highlight-reel goals in the second period Monday night.
Malkin used a power move to beat Jay Bouwmeester up the right wing to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead. Tarasenko used a similar move to get past Lovejoy to tie the score.
After the game, Malkin used the occasion to take a playful shot at his friend and fellow countryman.
“He's a skilled guy,” Malkin said. “It's not the first goal I've seen like that. He turns back and makes a quick turn forward. He's pretty good with that move. I think he scored a couple of goals like that.
“It's a good move, but it's not like mine.”
Newly acquired winger Carl Hagelin is the first Penguins player to wear No. 62.
There are three other players on the current roster who have a number all to themselves in team history.
Two — Sidney Crosby (87) and Kris Letang (58) — are obvious.
The third is more obscure. Lovejoy wore No. 65 for his first few games up from the minors in 2008-09.
Climbing the charts
With a sizzling stretch of five goals and 11 assists in his past 10 games, Letang has returned to a familiar spot on the NHL leaderboard.
With 30 points in 35 games, he's moved into the top 10 in the league in defenseman scoring.