After a disheartening loss last night against the Islanders, their second consecutive loss, the Pens were back on the ice. This time, they were in Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. In a game that the Pens needed to get things back on track, they would have to beat a tough Leafs squad that has found ways to pull games out all year.

EVEN-STRENGTH OFFENSE: D
They generated a lot of chances in the first two periods. But again, they can’t find the finish that they had in the first eight games of this season. The 3rd was a bad period from all facets of the game for the team.

EVEN-STRENGTH DEFENSE: C
They only gave up one goal, and it was on a rush caused by an offensive zone turnover (more on this later). However, they gave Toronto too many opportunities in the 3rd period, and it was a defensive penalty in the 3rd that gave the Leafs the power play that put the game away.

POWER PLAY: C
They got a goal on the chance of the game. But their next opportunity led to a shorthanded goal that knotted the game up. As in the previous games, they had plenty of chances. The shorthander killed their momentum in the 1st, and they didn’t cash in during the 2nd, which could have turned the game around.

PENALTY KILL: C
They killed the 4-on-3 in the 1st, which is the toughest kind of penalty to kill. They actually looked very strong until the final kill of the game. However, they didn’t have their typical compliment of penalty killers on that kill due to the situation and score. That, unfortunately, was an unsuccessful kill that put the game out of reach.

GOALTENDING: C-
Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t horrible in the game, but in the same way that I graded Jeff Zatkoff tough in the loss, I have to do the same here. Fleury made an ill-advised attempt to poke check on the second goal of the game. But the other two goals were tough situations for MAF. The David Bolland shot was a rocket, and he had no chance on the third goal, but it’s still three goals.

FINAL GRADE: D-
For a third straight game, Pittsburgh carried the play the majority of the game and outshot their opponent…and yet still found a way to lose the game. This is not entirely about playing hot goalies; this is about the Penguins not finishing and giving the opposition too many quality chances. It was a better effort and a game they had plenty of chances to win. They were loose and winning games prior to Monday. They may need to get back to being serious and getting the hardhats back on.

AND FOR THE REST…

EVGENI MALKIN: E
The only time Malkin’s passes were on the tape is when they were to the Leafs. He turned the puck over constantly and erased a lot of potential scoring chances. The Nazem Kadri goal which broke the 1-1 tie in the 3rd was a direct result of a direct turnover by Malkin, and this inability to clear the puck on a clearing attempt on the Pens’ only 3rd period penalty kill lead to the third goal for the Leafs.

DAVID CLARKSON:
No grade – he’s just the same guy we hated in New Jersey. His hit on Rob Scuderi looked similar to the hit Sidney Crosby absorbed in Game 7 of the Cup Finals that took him out of the game. I know I speak for the Penguin fan base when I say I hope it’s not as serious.

KRIS LETANG: B
Letang was much better overall in this game than yesterday. He got the first goal of the game and had a lot more confidence. He lost his defensive partner early in the game, but he and Maatta played well enough. It’s a shame the team hasn’t played well with him in the lineup to this point. The team is immeasurably better with him than without him.

MATT D’AGOSTINI: B
A good first good for him coming off of injury. He drew a penalty, had a few good chances and hunted the puck all night. I have to say, though, that these first games for guys are not paying off much for the Pens over the last week.

JAMES RIEMER: A
He looked a bit out of sorts early in the game, but after several pucks to the head, he got dialed in. He was a wall in the 2nd and beat back 16 Pittsburgh shots. His team took over in the 3rd and gave him the goal support. The Pens created havoc for him but he was up to the task.

THE PENGUINS FIRST LINE: D
I single them out in this game because of their 3rd period play. I lost count of how many no-look backhand passes they tried to throw that led to turnovers, as well as how many passes they tried to force. Instead of getting to their cycling game down low, they seemed content with trying to go with more high-risk plays. With the game in the balance, they didn’t settle things down and show why they are the best trio in hockey. I realize Toronto tightened things up, but great teams and players overcome. The whole team needs to do the same.

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