Penguins try to rebound in home opener
PITTSBURGH (AP) Loaded with high-end offensive talent, the Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to rebound after scoring only goal in two opening road losses.
They will host the streaking Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night in the home opener at Consol Energy Center.
”I always think it’s a process in the beginning of the year when you have several new players,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Monday. ”All of our lines are different. It just doesn’t happen at the snap of the fingers. I thought we had the looks and we had the chances, but we just aren’t converting.”
The Penguins are 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 2010-11 and they already trail the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers by six points. Montreal is 3-0.
Pittsburgh was about five minutes from breaking the club record for the longest goal-less streak to start a season – set by the 2003-04 team that eventually finished with the worst record in the NHL – until Phil Kessel beat Arizona goalie Mike Smith with a sharp wrist shot to the stick side Saturday night.
Kessel, a three-time All-Star, was acquired during an offseason trade to bolster an already-dynamic offense highlighted by former scoring champions Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Kessel provided one of the few highlights in the losses at Dallas and Arizona.
”You have to build as a group and get better each game,” Kessel said. ”That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Penguins have some work to do.
Crosby doesn’t have a shot on goal as he tries to adjust to Kessel, who scored 30 or more goals five of his previous six full NHL seasons. Meanwhile, the Penguins are searching for Malkin’s left winger, opening the season with fellow Russian Sergei Plotnikov alongside the former Hart Trophy winner and Patric Hornqvist before switching to David Perron.
Johnston also is tinkering with a loaded power play. He has put Crosby and Malkin on separate units with the man advantage, but it hasn’t produced a goal in seven chances.
”You can get 30 seconds of zone time and one goal and everyone thinks it’s great, and then you can have four opportunities, be all over them, not score and it’s struggling,” Crosby said. ”It’s all about executing and finding a way to score. Whether it’s two units or everyone’s on one, we have to find a way to make sure we’re winning the special teams.”
Crosby led the Penguins with 237 shots last season, but he doesn’t have any through six periods. He denied deferring too much to Kessel, who finished sixth in the league last season with 280 shots.
”It’s just a matter of getting to those traffic areas,” Crosby said. ”I have to find a way to get to those areas and get shots off.”
And the Penguins have to find a way to put the puck in the net. They feel it’s only a matter of time before it all comes together.
”I think there’s always an adjustment at the start of the year with new guys,” Crosby said. ”We’ve had some good chances, it’s just a matter of burying them.”