Thursday, February 2, 2012

Game 51: Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Recap

Karma found its way to bite the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. On the previous night, the Pens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game that they had no business winning. On Wednesday, they played an infinitely better defensive style of hockey and were still granted a loss. Stretches such as this home and home series with Toronto proves that things tend to even out over the course of an 82 game schedule.

Superstitions were put on the back burner for this game. Dan Bylsma, as is the case with most hockey people, is a very superstitious man. However, that did not prevent him from turning to Brent Johnson in goal for this game. Sometimes logic rules over superstitions. Logic says that the Penguins are in a five games in eight days stretch and continuing to play Marc-Andre Fleury would wear him down. Johnson has been less than stellar to this point of the season but he is not the reason that the Pens lost this game.

Toronto started a backup goalie of their own. James Reimer, who played the majority of the games for the Leafs last season, started just his second game of the 2012 campaign. He stopped 25 shots en route to his fourth career shutout but it wasn't without some scares. Tyler Kennedy and Matt Niskanen each hit a post in the first period. Matt Cooke and Evgeni Malkin were each denied on mini breakaway attempts. Chris Kunitz had a goal disallowed when he kicked in a rebound from a Malkin backhand attempt. And James Neal hit a post off of a wicked deflection on a shot from the blue line.

Johnson was much more comfortable in the net when stopping 23 of the 24 shots that he faced. Clarke MacArthur, who also scored the previous night, was the only man to put a puck past the Penguin netminder. The goal and this loss to not fall on Johnson's shoulders though. MacArthur made a tremendous move to fool Johnson and no one was back and in position defensively to make a play on the puck.

The winning streak is over and it is certainly disappointing but everyone in the Penguin locker room was aware that it would end at some point. The key now is not so much to rip off another streak but to play consistently. Over the past month, this team has been streaking either one way or the other. They'll have a difficult time not going into a two game losing streak though with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins up next on the schedule.

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