Pens' offense sputters in loss
By Karen Price
Friday, March 23, 2007
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Penguins coach Michel Therrien agreed that New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro was good in the Islanders' 3-1 win on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The Penguins had 36 shots on goal and only scored on one.
Among DiPietro's saves were a stop on an Evgeni Malkin breakaway while the game was tied and another on a Malkin penalty shot after the Islanders went ahead by one in the second period.
Still, DiPietro's play didn't matter to Therrien.
All that mattered was that in the past two games, when his team had a chance to catch the New Jersey Devils for the lead in the Atlantic Division, the Penguins have lost both games and scored two goals.
"We have to find a way to score more goals," Therrien said. "We didn't score enough goals to deserve to win the hockey game. I thought DiPietro was great (Thursday); he played an excellent game and we got a lot of shots. But at the same time, that's not good enough. Our philosophy has always been the same: that you have to score at least three goals to deserve to win. We're not scoring enough goals."
Colby Armstrong scored the only goal for the Penguins (41-23-10), who remain two points behind the Devils after their loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, now within six points of fifth place. The Penguins also fell four points behind the Ottawa Senators for fourth place.
The Islanders, meanwhile, were in 11th place with 79 points heading into the game and looked to leapfrog three teams log-jammed at 80 points. They were leading, 2-1, when Malkin was awarded a penalty shot and put the puck into DiPietro's leg pad.
The Penguins had consecutive power plays, including 37 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage before the second period was over. They didn't score, and the penalty kill energized the Islanders and the crowd of 14,457 at Nassau Coliseum.
Therrien blamed the missed penalty shot for the outcome of the game more than the performance on the power play.
"The penalty shot, if we could have scored, it would have been a different game," Therrien said. "We didn't score."
Therrien moved Malkin up to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi, and he moved Erik Christensen to a line with Jordan Staal and Michel Ouellet. Those were done to spark the offense, but the moves didn't work.
The Islanders scored their third goal just 1:42 into the third period after Maxime Talbot turned the puck over heading into the Islanders' end. The Islanders gained control along the boards, and that led to a 3-on-2 rush.
Viktor Kozlov scored from the middle to make it 3-1.
The Penguins received another chance on the power play, but the Islanders controlled the puck almost the entire advantage.
Crosby said the Penguins managed to get a lot of pucks behind DiPietro but could get just one to cross the goal line.
"There were probably three or four that were sitting behind him, and we didn't get a guy in there to bang it home," Crosby said. "They were solid around their net, but at this time of year, you have to score ugly goals and we have to find a way to do that."
The eighth and final installment of the season series between the two teams was as hard-hitting and chippy as one might have imagined from two division teams fighting for two points.
"We were definitely expecting something like that," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "They have a physical team, and they were really battling for their playoff lives. We had a good first (period), but after that they kind of took it to us."
Whitney didn't take much solace in the fact the Devils also lost.
"That's good, but at the same time that's twice we could have been in first place," Whitney said. "We would have been in first by ourselves if we'd won those two games here in New York. We're still right there for the division, but Saturday (against Atlanta) we have to be better."