All good things must come to an end, and for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the end came Monday night at Consol Energy Center, where the Florida Panthers ended Pittsburgh’s incredible 13-game home winning streak by handing them a 5-1 loss.
It was the first home loss for the Penguins since late November, and it came, like it usually does, in dramatic fashion.
Not dramatic in the sense that it was a tight game that the Pens lose in sudden-death overtime or even a shootout; no, dramatic in the sense of how incredibly bad Pittsburgh’s effort was.
The defeat was the worst home regulation loss of Coach Dan Bylsma’s tenure as bench boss of the Penguins, tying the 5-1 drubbing the Pens received at the hands of the Senators back in January of 2012. They don’t lose much, but as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.
On paper it looks like a huge upset, and to be honest, it was. The Penguins are the frontrunners to win the Eastern Conference and boast one of the most talented rosters in the league, and the Panthers are, well, the Panthers. However, if you’ve watched the Pens the past three or four games, you’ve seen a team that has somehow seemingly escaped with victories in games they did not at all deserve to win.
They’ve been playing with fire for a few weeks now, and last night it finally blew up in their faces.
And no one realizes how bad they’ve played in recent games more than the team themselves.
After the loss, center Brandon Sutter called the Penguins recent efforts “terrible”, noting that they were simply not doing the basic things right, like playing smart and not taking stupid penalties.
It was the cherry on top of an embarrassment sundae last night in Consol, and if the team doesn’t right the ship quickly, it could get a lot uglier a lot faster.
Stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to find their scoring touches. In the past three games, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined for only three assists and no goals, a pace that must be broken quickly if the Penguins are to get back on track soon.
A defense that has been in flux recently will hopefully calm down and find it’s groove now that Paul Martin is back in the lineup after sitting out almost three months with a broken tibia. Still, even reliable shutdown guys like Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi have been possession nightmares as of late. In the last five games, Orpik is a -4 and Scuderi is a -3. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been exceptional either, but he’s faced so many quality scoring chances recently that it’s a wonder the Penguins haven’t given up ten a night.
Pittsburgh is one of the elite teams in hockey. It’s time they lock it down and start playing like it.