Special Teams Haunt Pittsburgh Penguins In Loss to Los Angeles Kings

By Shane Darrow
Getty Images
Getty Images

Entering Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Pittsburgh Penguins had the best power play in the NHL, converting in nearly 25 percent of their chances with the man advantage. The Kings’ penalty kill, on the other hand, is ranked in the bottom-sixth of the NHL.

Two nights prior, the Penguins were only given one power play against the Phoenix Coyotes, but the Penguins’ speed allowed them to draw penalties all night against the Kings. With about 13 minutes of total power play time on seven chances, the Penguins were unable to convert once. A controversial call disallowed a goal from Brandon Sutter, but other than that, they had just one outstanding scoring chance with the man advantage.

Sutter was called for goaltender interference after he found a way to get the puck behind Martin Jones, but after watching the replay, it did not appear to be the right call. Sutter was crosschecked into Jones, and scored before a whistle was blown. After the refs talked to the guys in Toronto, which was completely unnecessary because goaltender interference isn’t review-able, it was declared no goal.

It’s a tough pill to swallow and an unfortunate break for the Penguins’ power play, which desperately needed a bounce. But that play wasn’t the reason for the loss — their special teams collectively simply wasn’t effective.

The Penguins didn’t only go 0-for-7 on the power play in the 3-2 loss to the Kings, but they also gave up another goal while shorthanded. After only surrendering 23 power play goals in the 58 games prior to the Olympic break, the Penguins have now given up 10 in the 13 games since they returned from Sochi.

Special teams were the main reason why the Penguins were able to keep winning throughout all their injuries. It’s difficult not having Kris Letang or Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, but that’s no excuse for not being able to convert when given seven power play attempts.

The Penguins have now lost three in a row and have to be concerned as the postseason is right around the corner.

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