Published on February 27th, 2013 | by James Conley0
Penguins’ Discipline on a Milk Carton as Panthers Earn 6-4 Win
Pittsburgh played with thin skin and thick skulls Tuesday, allowing four power play goals and taking at least as many ill-advised minors en route to a 6-4 loss to the lowly Florida Panthers Tuesday.
It was the Penguins’ seventh loss of the season and third on the road. Of their seven losing efforts this year, four have come at the hands of teams currently outside the Eastern Conference playoff bubble.
James Neal, Paul Martin, Dustin Jeffrey and Chris Kunitz scored in the loss.
The Penguins remain in first place in the Atlantic but failed to catch the Montreal Canadiens at the top of the East. Among the NHL’s division-leading teams, only the Carolina Hurricanes (9-8-1) have more losses.
Pittsburgh took seven minor penalties on the evening, the fifth time in 20 games they’ve taken six or more minor penalties. The transgressions were often of the avoidable variety, with several calls coming in the offensive zone and on completely avoidable offenses such as delay of game, boarding, high-sticking and post-whistle roughing calls.
“Certainly, the amount of 5-on-3 we’re giving other teams, especially in the last five games when you tee up 1:40, 1:50, two minutes of 5-on-3, it’s a tough kill for the penalty killers,” Dan Bylsma said following the game.
“We’re taking too many penalties, and we’re taking too many unnecessary penalties.”
The Penguins didn’t lose to the Flyers in last year’s playoffs because they were outmatched—the Flyers won just one game in their second round set with the Devils—but because their inability to cope with adversity and antagonism took them out of each game.
Even against a Florida team with no discernible bad blood to speak of, the Pens managed to create trouble for themselves. The familiar too-stationary PK formation took hold again, allowing a struggling Panthers power play to score four straight power play goals.
Pittsburgh allowed two more 5-on-3 situations in Tuesday’s loss, an unsettling trend for a club that will rank in the bottom third of the league in PK percentage following the loss.
“We’re going to have to take a hard look at it,” Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said after the game. “Part of it is taking too many penalties, 5-on-3′s, stuff like that. Obviously, even 5-on-4, we’re not nearly good enough.”
“We made too many mistakes.”
Forgiving Florida’s empty-net goal, the Pens have now allowed 16 goals in their last four games and 12 in the last two games Tomas Vokoun has started. They’ve also allowed a hat trick in each of those games, to Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek last Wednesday and to Florida’s Tomas Kopecky on Tuesday.
Vokoun was tagged for each of Florida’s four PP goals Tuesday, though it was Marc-Andre Fleury, who came on in relief in the second period, who suffered the loss.
Vokoun has now allowed 10 goals in his last five-plus periods of play.
While it’s hard to fault a netminder for allowing power play goals in which the team in front of him is playing undisciplined hockey (and they were), Vokoun was again shaky with rebound control and puckhandling.
The loss shouldn’t cost him any starts. In a perfect universe, this loss will force changes on the penalty kill and perhaps change the tone of the team’s next practice. However, the Penguins can’t allow Fleury to make too many starts in the compressed season.
Vokoun is due for a good game that will get his confidence back in order, and doing so begins with putting a structured, mentally-tough team in front of him.
That’s something the Penguins have rarely resembled over the last year.
Quotes/Audio Courtesy Jason Seidling & Pittsburgh Penguins