Let’s take two things into account.
1. It’s a January West Coast trip.
It’s a recipe for a loss, really. The Penguins didn't even play all that horribly. Despite getting outshot, they had plenty of chances to get back into the game, but Mike Smith wouldn't let them. Smith was brilliant. He made at least three saves that were basically goals on any other goaltender in the NHL. Pens got the split on this trip which is fine.
We pointed out recently that the Pens get a disproportionate amount of their goals on the power play. So when their PP isn’t on or if they just aren’t generating chances, they’re going to be in bad shape. The game in LA saw the Pens score two 5-on-3 goals and run away with it. Pens went a combined 0 for 6 on the PP against the Stars and Coyotes.
Pens have only three more games until the Olympic break.
There were three things that happened in the first period.
Jussi Jokinen had unlimited chances
The puck was following Jokinen all period. He had four shots in the first ten minutes of the game. He couldn't connect on any of his chances.
Mike Smith robs Gibbons
Pens got the better chances early. It was like the Coyotes D had a bet on who could let their player score first. Mike Smith made a big save on Gibbons in front.
Mike Ribeiro and his face put a puck to the net
Phoenix made an effort to get in front of Marc-Andre Fleury all night. On a power play, Fleury had a dude right in his vas deferens. Riberio ripped it past him.
1-0. Not a great night for Robert Bortuzzo.
The Coyotes put a lock on their blue line after that goal, and that was it for the first.
Big Z almost scored to make it 2-0 early, but it whacked off the pipe. But he was not to be denied. About 10 minutes later, Michalek whistled one past Fleury. 2-0.
Michalek's first goal in 83 games. The last time he scored, he was in a Penguin uniform, and it was against the Coyotes.
Both teams traded power plays in the period; the Pens couldn't do anything.
With about five minutes left, Neal-Malkin-Jokinen turned it on. They had a great shift, and they got rewarded for it. Neal found Malkin on the right of the net. Malkin didn't get it upstairs on the sprawling Mike Smith, but it still went in.
Malkin kept the shift alive with this fancy footwork:
Pens had some momentum going into the third period.
Rough night for the Penguins’ "top" line. Gibbons hasn't played a really shitty game since he's been up...until this game. There were moments when Crosby almost looked annoyed playing with him.
That pretty much came to a head when Gibbons had a horrible turnover in the neutral zone. Crosby said whatev and went to the bench. Vrbata cruised in and beat MAF straight-up. 3-1.
Malkin hit the post on a power play. His third period would eventually get much more eventful. Meanwhile, Mike Smith was the difference in the third. He made some big stops on the Pens’ only PP.
Then came the craziness. Neal somehow got a diving penalty for getting hit from behind, so there was a 4-on-4 for a while. Then Niskanen went off. And that still wasn’t the end of it. Malkin was telling a referee to go fuck himself from the bench, and he was sent off, too.
Pens killed off all of that because that’s what a #1-ranked PK unit does.
And then came the signature of a Pens’ defeat: loss of composure. This came when Geno took himself off the ice at the end of the game for getting into it with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That all started when OEL didn’t appreciate Malkin giving him a pretty good whack on the hands. OEL came back to say WTF, and Malkin saw that as a challenge to his honor. A sweet uppercut and a pulled MAF later…