Returning home from a 1-2 trip west, the Penguins spoke of cleaning up their starts, of bringing a stop to their recent pattern of falling into steep early deficits. Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Center, facing the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh spent 40 minutes putting its money where its mouth was – then collapsed spectacularly in the final 20 as a 4-2 lead evaporated into a 7-4 loss.
“A great team effort in the second period; we were all over them,” said goaltender Brent Johnson. “To blow a 4-2 lead is tough. To give up five goals in the third period is really tough.”
Pittsburgh got on the board just 1:05 into the contest with Arron Asham’s first goal as a Penguin and ended the period tied, 2-2, before pouring it on in with a 16-shot, two-goal second. But, in the third, it became clear the Penguins hadn’t internalized the lessons learned on their trip; it was the same problem, only in reverse.
“It’s a 60-minute game. Tonight, we played 40, we ended up losing,” said defenseman Kris Letang. “On the West Coast, we got down 2-0 and 3-0 in the first period. When you play 40 minutes, you don’t have a good chance to win the game.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik said his team simply didn’t play smart with the lead.
“I think a lot of it is just awareness of what the score is, awareness of what the situation is,” Orpik said. “It’s 4-2 and we’re taking way too many chances. We have enough good forwards in here; we don’t need defensemen taking the chances we’re taking now and giving up countless odd-man rushes.
“And I don’t know what was going on in the D zone. A lot of watching.”
In the opportunistic Bruins, Pittsburgh chose exactly the wrong team to sit back against.
“They’re a team that, even when they were down 4-2, they sat back and just pounced on their opportunities,” Johnson said. “It’s a tough game to play like that, when you’re thinking you’ve got so much room out there, then they get a rush here or there.”
The Penguins have one full practice and one morning skate to figure out some solutions before Steven Stamkos, Vinnie Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis lead the Tampa Bay Lightning into town.
“We’re professionals in here,” Asham said. “We’re going to think about this tonight, come to practice tomorrow and work hard and, hopefully, come in Friday with a sour taste in our mouth. Hopefully we play 60 minutes then.”