Hello and welcome to another episode of The West Coast Is Fine, But Its Time Zone Sucks Ass. Today, we will be taking a look at the Penguins 5-2 loss to the Kings, a game in which no one in a real time zone watched or, frankly, probably cared about.
It was the first road loss the Pens have suffered in exactly a month when they lost to a team that was and still is in the basement of the Western Conference. Losses to these bad teams would be a little bit more concerning if 1) they weren’t sitting in 2nd in the Metro and B) they’ve lost consecutive games recently. But, 1) they are in 2nd in the Metro and B) haven’t lost consecutive games since that 6-3 barnburner in Colorado and the 4-2 loss at home against the Flyers on 11/28 and 12/1 respectively.
So really, when your team is 12-3-0 in its last 15, a loss to the 2nd worst team in the league actually doesn’t matter, whether you watched it or not.
With ZAR and Hornqvist out injured still, the only change to the lineup that topped the Ducks the night before was DeSmith getting the start in the second of a back-to-back. On the other side of the ice…
PIT – 1st Pd./5:30 – SHG – Guentzel; A: Crosby, Johnson – 1-0
Just 5.5 minutes into this game, the Pens put themselves in a position to really overthrow the Kings after putting themselves in a position to do the exact opposite of that thing with Malkin in the box for slashing. Instead, halfway through the penalty, HCMS threw Crosby and Money Bag out there to kill the penalty and maybe score a goal.
They did the latter.
Crosby ended up losing the draw, but his tireless work along the wall with Guentzel in support ended up turning the puck over seconds after losing the draw. Crosby took off as soon as it spit out to JJ73, taking the lead pass and giving and going and giving and going with Bake. Just as it looked like they had gave and went one too many times, Guentzel slammed on the brakes to take the fortunate bounce and sweep it home.
LAK – 1st Pd./10:58 – Carter; A: N/A – 1-1
But about 5.5 minutes later, the Kings were back level after Marcus Pettersson made a rare mistake at the blueline. The Pens 4th line looked like they had something going against the Kings 2nd line, working the perimeter and keeping them hemmed in. But as Garrett Wilson tried to ease the pressure by moving it to the point, Pettersson couldn’t handle the pass.
The puck came out of the zone and you could see Pettersson get caught in between two minds: dump it back in and wait for the delayed offside or retreat back into the neutral zone. By the time he made the delayed offside decision, Jeff Carter was all over him, stealing the puck and getting north to burn a clap bomb by a challenging Casey DeSmith.
LAK – 2nd Pd./8:47 – Iafallo; A: Carter, Muzzin – 2-1
Midway through the 2nd, the Kings would take the lead for the first and final time on the night, this time coming after Phil! looked like he was going to create something magical at the other end of the ice.
Instead, the Kings managed to break up Kessel’s near-highlight reel individual effort to turn it the other way. With Pettersson jumping into the offensive zone to try to disrupt the Kings breakout, LA ended up with an easy path into the offensive zone with Johnson and Brassard the two lone guys back.
While they worked it in deep and worked Brassard, still having to play as a defenseman here, the Pens looked a bit out of sorts. Brassard, as you can imagine, wanted to get back into his normal defensive posture, but that was occupied by Pettersson. Eventually, LA would send it in deep and Johnson would engage with Muzzin coming down from the point, but without support in behind picking up Jeff Carter. Brassard, here, is stuck. Normally, Carter would be his man. But Pettersson loses his guy here. He’s chasing the puck as the Kings come out from down low, leaving Johnson and Brassard to deal with Iafallo and Carter. But when Johnson chases Muzzin behind the net, Brassard is left with Iafallo and Carter. Pettersson eventually gets on Iafallo, but so too does Brassard. By the time 19 realizes Pettersson is on Iafallo, Carter is already making the free pass to the blue paint and Iafallo is getting the fortunate bounce off of him and in behind DeSmith.
Somewhere after this goal, Pettersson got himself in his second fight this week and, according to hockeyfights.com, just his 3rd of his career. Somewhere, the ghost of Ian Cole is cranking one out.
LAK – 2nd Pd./16:05 – SHG – Kopitar; A: Carter – 3-1
Then, late in the period, with the Pens on the powerplay, they looked poised to get a 2 man advantage for 50 seconds after Alec Martinez airmailed the puck into orbit, only to have the refs confer and deem it not to be a penalty. On the ensuing faceoff, Letang made a rare mistake when he tried to sell the Kings PK on making a pass across the blue line to Malkin, only to attempt to reverse it behind the back to Phil! on the near wall. Carter didn’t bite and he and Kopitar went down on a 2v1. DeSmith was able to turn away the initial attempt, but not the rebound.
A lot is going to be made of the Pens giving up shorthanded goals because it’s easy to write about and form narratives and it’s happened in consecutive games. I wrote about this in early December when the narrative was at its peak. In short, taking one of Guentzel/Kessel/Malkin/Crosby off the ice to add another defenseman to try to mitigate shorties will only weaken what is perhaps the most lethal powerplay on Earth. The 4F-1D first powerplay unit just works and if you take away one of the 4 forwards that make it work, you might might not give up a shorthanded goal, but you’re probably not going to score a powerplay goal either.
LAK – 3rd Pd./0:49 – Leipsic; A: Kovalchuk, Muzzin – 4-1
Under a minute into the 3rd, the game basically ended for all floral incandescent porpoises after what looked like a really great shift for the Guentzel-Crosby-Rust threesome.
But as Guentzel’s shot attempts kept getting blocked down and a quick pinch and poke by Dumo didn’t come off his way, Kovalchoo was off to the races. The 3 man unit he attacked with bobbed and weaved, had a shot blocked, but the Pens were all out of sorts.
Watch as the shot gets blocked and Muzzin gets to the loose puck at the blueline. He throws it to the net while every single Penguin in the D zone aside from Letang stands and watches. Kovalchuk attacks the shot and gets to it just a hair before 58, getting the deflection to come off and end up with on the stick of Leipsic at the side of the net. No idea how the Pens had all 5 guys in the D zone while the Kings had just 4 and still managed to lose Leipsic.
PIT – 3rd Pd./9:20 – PPG – Guentzel; A: Phil!, Malkin – 4-2
Then, midway through the period, Guentzel once again gave his team some life, this time coming on the powerplay. Again, you can see how good these guys are with 4 forwards on the ice.
Off the opening faceoff to the powerplay, the Kings were able to ship the biscuit down to DeSmith. Letang goes back to pick it up, turns on the jets, then slips it to Phil! on the right wing wall. Kessel’s immediate steps to the middle of the neutral zone and beating the first man gave him the space to gain the line and defer to Gene on the far side. Nice little long distance give and go followed as Malkin rimmed it around for Phil! streaking to the far corner. Phil! wasted exactly 0 seconds getting the puck right to the front of the net where Guentzel was crashing in. LA here was looking like the Pens on the previous goal, allowing someone to have a freebie in front.
PIT – 3rd Pd./19:13 – ENG – Kopitar; A: Brown – 5-2
But as the Pens pressed on, the final blow would come in the form of an empty netter from Kopitar just after Crosby had a yawning 4×6 that he just missed because the puck was rolling on him.
Seemed like a non-issue until Letang’s point shot didn’t end up in the back of the net (while also eluding Kessel down low), sending Kopitar, Brown, and Associates the other way. Brown slowed the play up to wait for Kopitar to catch up with him in the neutral zone, but Kopi’s mishandling of the puck was actually a blessing for the Kings. Malkin was actually matching Kopitar’s speed when he initially touched the puck, but by mishandling it, Malkin found himself too far back in the d-zone, giving the Kings center a clean lane to hit the vacated cage and seal this.
- Snoop fucking rules
- Rare rough game from Pettersson.
- One turnover does not make Letang bad. Keep his name outcha mouths.
- Pens actually dominate the possession all night, owning a 60.87% share of the shot attempts at 5v5 (that drops to 59.94% when adjusting for score and venue effects). They also generated 32 scoring chances to the Kings 20 and had a 13-10 edge in high danger chances.
- Goaltending, though, was a big difference here. That’s not to say Casey DeSmith had a bad game by any means- there’s not a whole lot he could do differently. But Quick was stellar in his 38 save effort. The Pens at all strengths managed a 3.84-2.73 edge in expected goals (2.21-1.84 at 5v5). At 5v5, Quick saw 9 high danger shots against and a staggering 7 rebound shots against, stopping every single one of them. DeSmith, on the other hand, made just 4 saves on 7 high danger shots at 5v5.
Road trip continues on Tuesday as the Pens head north to San Jose before another Friday/Saturday back-to-back in Arizona and Vegas. Do it.