David Perron #39 of the Pittsburgh Penguins moves the puck between the defense of Jesper Fast #19 and Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 20, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH — David Perron hasn't scored in 15 games and it doesn't appear he will if the Penguins were to play another 15. Which, after Monday night's 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers, isn't looking too promising.
Daniel Winnik? Hasn't scored since March 28. Evgeni Malkin? Nothing since March 6.
That, folks, is the Penguins' second line. A scoring line, in name only.
The penalties, the careless stick infractions that have dogged the Penguins through the first three games of this series, continued unabated in Game 3. But those penalties, like injuries and spotty officiating, all legitimate complaints to varying degrees, are just mitigating factors in the Penguins' dilemma.
It was Monday and has been the Penguins' lack of scoring that will ultimately end the Penguins' season in the first round against the Rangers. Mark that down.
Credit the Rangers and their stifling brand of defense, clogging up the neutral zone and limiting chances, but this is about the Penguins. This is about a team that has collectively forgotten how to score and that's nothing new.
Saturday night's four-goal outburst in New York was the exception, not the rule for the Penguins who struggled mightily down the stretch to find the back of the net with any consistency. That offensive outburst at the Garden gave the Penguins some much-needed confidence but clearly it didn't carry over into Monday.
It was another slow start for the Penguins, who required 15 minutes to register their first shot and who have given up the first goal in each of the first three games. It wasn't until the final nine harried minutes of Game 3, that the Penguins were able to generate quality scoring chances or as much as sustain pressure against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had faced just 11 shots through the first 40 minutes.
The Penguins' lone goal came from Patric Hornqvist on a fifth-effort rebound. OK, slight exaggeration but it was the kind of "greasy" goal as they say, that the Penguins need to score more of.
Malkin's wonky back is obviously preventing him from being the Malkin of old. But, like Perron, Malkin has passed on too many of the chances the Penguins have gotten.
"Geno had some looks, he has some speed," said coach Mike Johnston. "He had the work ethic. It will come for that line."
Just don't hold your breath.
The mid-season trades that brought Perron and Winnik to Pittsburgh were largely hailed at the time but haven't had the desired effect. Perron had 12 goals in 43 games for the Penguins but just two since Feb. 12. Winnik, a capable penalty killer currently miscast in a top-six role, had two goals in 21 games.
Perron and Winnik might go down as general manager Jim Rutherford's Alexei Ponikarovsky, except for the not-so small detail that Ponikarovsky only cost the Penguins the forgettable Luca Caputi and Martin Skoula. Clearly Rutherford is frustrated. The GM threw a profanity-laced tirade against a local columnist after Monday's game in the bowels of CEC. Perron cost the Penguins a first-round pick in this year's draft and Winnik cost a second-rounder in 2016.
Perron, a former 28-goal scorer, had three shots but has frustrated whether he's played on the first or second line.
"Some times you'd like to have chances back because you'd do something a little bit differently but these I 'd do exactly the same," he said.
Not to single out Perron, Winnik or Malkin. There's plenty of blame to go around. Blake Comeau isn't scoring and neither is Steve Downie or Beau Bennett, The list goes on.
And it's not to say there's weren't positives to take from Monday. They are still alive, being down 2-1 beats 3-0. They nearly tied the game in the frantic final moments and can build from that.
But it's all a moot point if the Penguins can't solve their scoring problems.
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