Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fighting for Position Penguins Lose, Likely to Get Flyers or Blue Jackets in First Round

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fighting for Position Penguins Lose, Likely to Get Flyers or Blue Jackets in First Round

Article excerpt

Sunday was one of those games that was all about a certain feel, about sending a message, about sticking with the process, about believing what you're doing one day will pay dividends down the road.

Or so the Penguins hope.

So they lost, 3-1, to the Washington Capitals at PPG Paints Arena, ceding the Metropolitan Division title to their archrivals. It has worked out OK the past two years, no?

What's smart to extract from this game was the Penguins -and specifically Evgeni Malkin -burning desire to let the Capitals know they'll be here in a couple of weeks, undoubtedly eager to cause more playoff torture.

"We sent a message that we're ready for the playoffs, maybe the second round," Malkin said.

There's really no reason to doubt whether the Penguins will be ready, as a playoff feel was palpable in this one.

Patric Hornqvist was in lunatic mode for much of this one, causing his usual havoc around the net. Assistant coach Mark Recchi was thrown out. Malkin was peeved late when he flung TJ Oshie's stick onto the Washington bench, only to have Evgeny Kuznetsov start yelling at Malkin in Russian.

"I don't know why he did that," Malkin said. "I don't like that. If he's sitting on the bench, sit on the bench. . You can't speak with me if you're sitting on the bench."

Malkin might've been frustrated for what transpired earlier.

Although the Penguins played a decent game, they simply couldn't score on the power play.

They were 0 for 5 against the Capitals, failing to score despite 12 shots on goal over a total of 8:40.

It was especially problematic in the second period, when the Penguins enjoyed 80 seconds of 5-on-3 time after Matt Niskanen shot a puck over the glass.

Phil Kessel found Sidney Crosby for a terrific backdoor chance. Malkin pinged one off the crossbar. But the Penguins couldn't beat Capitals netminder Philipp Grubauer.

It's hard to even call Sunday an off night for the Penguins power play, because it did have its chances. It was, however, one of the few nights this season where that unit didn't make a significant difference when it had a chance to do exactly that.

"The power play, we have to score," Hornqvist said.

"That's probably as good as our power play has looked in the last month," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

"If we continue to do that and get those looks, the puck will go in the net," Crosby said.

The loss was one of the few at home for the Penguins recently, dropping them to 17-2-1 in their past 20 here. It also snapped the Penguins' four-game home winning streak against the Capitals and brought Murray's career-long 10-game unbeaten streak (9-0-1) to a close.

After giving up a power-play goal in 10 of the past 11 games, the Penguins penalty kill actually fared well by going 3 for 3, an important piece of momentum as that unit entered this one having been successful on just 17 of its past 29 kills (58. …

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