June 23, 2024

On Thursday, the Penguins experienced a setback with a 2-0 loss to the Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena, halting their three-game winning streak and four-game point streak. This defeat came at a crucial juncture in the season, making it a missed opportunity to secure two valuable points in the standings.

The disappointment is compounded by the fact that the Penguins performed admirably throughout the game. “For a significant portion of the night, we were the superior team,” remarked Mike Sullivan. “However, we struggled to capitalize on our opportunities.”

Despite outshooting the Kraken 28-16 in the first two periods and dominating in shot attempts by a margin of 60-29, the Penguins found themselves trailing. They also led in high-danger scoring chances, recording 13 compared to the Kraken’s three. Nevertheless, the only goal of the game during these periods was scored by the Kraken, and it came in an unconventional manner. Will Borgen’s shot ricocheted off Alex Wennberg and deflected into the air above the crease, where Oliver Bjorkstrand batted it past Tristan Jarry to score.

Jarry commented on the challenge of tracking a puck that suddenly goes airborne, noting, “When the puck goes up like that, your focus naturally shifts downward. Typically, pucks travel from down to up, making it difficult to adjust to the sudden change in trajectory. I momentarily lost sight of it, and they capitalized on the opportunity.”

In the third period, the Kraken asserted their dominance, outshooting the Penguins 12-5. While high-danger scoring chances were evenly matched at 3-3, it was one of the Kraken’s opportunities on the power play that ultimately sealed the game, beating Jarry late in the period.

Breaking down the game proves challenging, especially when examining the heat map of unblocked shot attempts. One team notably generated more shots from close to the net, and surprisingly, it wasn’t the Kraken.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Penguins had eight rebound attempts compared to the Kraken’s four. Additionally, the Penguins created three rush attempts while the Kraken managed only one.

While acknowledging Philipp Grubauer’s stellar performance in goal for Seattle, there’s room for reflection on what the Penguins could have done differently to increase pressure on him.

Lars Eller emphasized the need for more presence around the net and capitalizing on second chances. He believed the team had sufficient quality chances to score multiple goals, a sentiment mirrored by Rickard Rakell, who contributed three of the eight rebound attempts.

Rakell highlighted the team’s struggle in converting rebounds and creating sustained pressure in the offensive zone, as the Kraken effectively cleared the puck.

When posed with the same question, Sullivan affirmed that the team made efforts to disrupt Grubauer’s rhythm and capitalize on scoring opportunities.

“There was quite a bit of congestion,” he elaborated. “The area around the net was chaotic… We had some promising opportunities both on the rush and in the offensive zone where we had traffic in front of the net and were attempting shots. That’s one method to generate scoring chances. Unfortunately, we couldn’t convert.”

Despite the Penguins having superior chances in the first two periods, Sullivan made changes to his lines in the third period in search of a spark. Drew O’Connor replaced Reilly Smith on the third line, while Smith moved down to the third line. Jesse Puljujarvi was promoted to the second line, taking O’Connor’s spot.

Some of the line adjustments may have aimed to ignite Evgeni Malkin, who, along with Eller, was one of only two Penguins skaters not to register a shot on goal. However, Malkin made five shot attempts, with one missing the net entirely and four being blocked. Others also faced significant shot blocks, with the Kraken blocking 26 shots compared to the Penguins’ 15. Even players hitting the net found many of their attempts blocked, such as Rakell, who had three shots on target and four blocked, and Erik Karlsson, with three on target and six blocked.

Sullivan observed that scoring was challenging throughout the game, not just for his team but also for the Kraken. He noted the fortunate bounce leading to the Kraken’s first goal and the power-play goal late in the game, making the outcome more challenging. Overall, Sullivan described it as one of those nights where scoring was elusive.

Indeed, it was just one of those games. While the Penguins’ performance wasn’t flawless, it was sufficient to earn at least a point if not secure a victory. Nonetheless, the players’ frustration was palpable in the locker room as they understand the importance of results, which they didn’t achieve in this instance.

Their focus now turns to regrouping and preparing for upcoming matches against the Flames and Oilers in Alberta.

Uniform History | Pittsburgh Penguins

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