Yohe’s 10 observations: After stumbling again, Penguins are in trouble

PITTSBURGH — Tristan Jarry lost his net twice in the third period. Evgeni Malkin has lost his mind.

The Penguins have strayed a lot.

On a night that saw Jarry return to the lineup, a dominating two-period performance by the Penguins and a rather memorable display of punching, the biggest news was another loss. The Penguins now find themselves outside the playoff picture after losing to the Islanders 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena on Monday.

Are the Penguins shaken by the current situation?

“No,” said Bryan Rust. “This team has seen a lot of things.”

True, but this team has never seen anything like it. The last time the Penguins were out of the playoffs this late in the season was in 2006, when Sidney Crosby was an 18-year-old rookie, Malkin was still in Russia and Jarry was 10.

They never felt more vulnerable in the Crosby days. That playoff streak that stretches back to 2007 looks to be in grave danger of being cut short. This team is not very good; he’s inventing ways to lose and his GM hasn’t made a lonely move to improve the roster.

Times are rather dark for these penguins.

Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker scored in the first two periods to give the Penguins the lead. Without a truly brilliant performance from Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin, the Penguins would have led a lot more.

Sorokin made one of the best saves of the NHL season on Kris Letang in the second period.

The Penguins, in what has been a theme all season, were unable to secure a lead in the third period. While they’re usually guilty of bad defensive habits – oh, those were on display again – this one was on their goalie.

Jarry, struggling with an injury that kept him sidelined for all but three games in 2023, made his comeback against the Islanders. And not a minute too soon. Casey DeSmith has largely struggled behind Jarry, who is very clearly the Penguins’ best prospect.

He was perfectly fine for two periods. Then, he allowed an absolutely terrible short-side goal to Bo Horvat.

Less than two minutes later, when the feeling of tension in the building was palpable, Jarry gave up another bad goal, this one to Anders Lee.

And that was it.

There’s no denying that the Penguins outplayed the Islanders in this game. However, they are now a resounding 0-3-0 against the Islanders this season.

If the Penguins are rocked, they weren’t showing it in the locker room. They have always been sure of themselves when meeting the media throughout the season, no matter how horrific some of their losses have been.

Malkin, who knocked most of the Islanders to the ice in a wild second-period showdown, spoke for the team as he often does in darker times.

“We should play the same whether we are leading by two goals or one,” he said. ” Do not wait. Try to win. Keep moving, play the same game, try forechecking. The last two games, we feel pressure, you know? We need points. … We start to wait too long and they start to change momentum.

Malkin, who shot six of the Penguins’ 47 shots, suggested the Penguins were still going to make the playoffs.

We will wake up tomorrow with some rest,” Malkin said. “We have a few days (to) rest before the next game. We understand that every game is important. Jarry is back. Stay focused. Stay positive. Help each other. It is not finished. We have to earn a lot. I think everything will be fine.

The Penguins have 26 games to go to find out.

“If we play (the) same, we fight every inch, we try to play hard, we will win,” Malkin said. “We have a great team here. I believe (in) everyone. If we play the same, we will definitely be in the playoffs.

10 post-match observations

• The Islanders directly attacked Crosby and Malkin in back-to-back second-period shifts as they trailed 2-1. The plan worked.

It was a hell of a scrum. As usual, Malkin and Letang were very active. Zucker too.

The problem for the Penguins is that the Islanders had Matt Martin and Ross Johnston on the ice. They’re not too good at playing hockey, but you wouldn’t want to bump into them in a dark alley. Or on a hockey rink.

The Penguins did pretty well. When Johnston, a giant man and legit fighter, engaged with Malkin, Zucker stepped in. Good for him. The Penguins need to do more.

Mike Sullivan wasn’t upset with anything the Penguins did during the altercation.

“It was hockey,” he said.

To be honest, that was the most fights I’ve seen from the Penguins all season. I liked that.

Of course, that didn’t help the Penguins. Zucker was given a 10-minute misconduct. Letang, Malkin, Guentzel and Marcus Pettersson – also known as four of the Penguins’ best players – were all sent to the penalty box. The Islanders, meanwhile, had to play without Martin and Johnston. Advantage, New York.

• The whole scene could have easily been avoided.

A shift earlier, the Islanders tackled Crosby. Sebastian Aho, indeed, literally tackled Crosby in the corner. Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the team, was beside himself in the press box when nothing was announced. Instead, umpire Peter MacDougall apparently thought Aho dragging Crosby onto the ice while the puck was 50 feet away somehow resembled a game of hockey and considered the game to continue.

If the right call is made, the Penguins go on the power play and this scene never happens.

• The good news is that Jarry was able to play and declared himself in good health after the match.

Still, he let the Penguins down in that game. If that sounds harsh, so be it. The Penguins are desperate for points and they have outplayed the Islanders by a considerable margin. Those last two New York goals — especially Horvat’s — just need to be stopped. There is no other way to say it.

I have no doubt that Jarry was rusty, but that rust must go quickly. The Penguins need him badly.

• The Penguins’ first power-play unit looked as disjointed as I’ve seen all season.

Their inability to even set up the power play in Islanders territory was remarkable. Nothing they did worked. This top unit seems rather lost at the moment.

• The Penguins still make constant and embarrassing mistakes.

Less than 30 seconds after Zucker put the Penguins ahead 2-1, the Penguins had their fourth line on the ice. And quickly allowed Zach Parise to skate alone on Jarry. The goaltender stopped the breakaway, and it would have been a game-changing moment had the Penguins won. Instead, it’s just another mistake from a team that can’t stop making them.

How to authorize a breakaway less than 30 seconds after scoring a goal? And how does your fourth line allow that to happen? Come on.

• Brock Nelson tied the score in the second period with typical Penguins play.

Pettersson got caught doing a bad pinch. Not ideal. But at least Drew O’Connor was there to cover it. Until then, O’Connor stumbled, giving the Islanders a two-to-one.

These mistakes happen again and again. The Penguins don’t change. It’s who they are.

• Brock McGinn has now gone 23 games without scoring a point.

It is really very difficult to do. I realize his linemates – Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen – aren’t exactly high caliber at the moment, but really, it’s quite a slip-up.

Worse still, McGinn took two bad penalties in that game. Is Danton Heinen worse than him? I don’t care if McGinn is a better penalty killer at this point. You have to face your best players. I don’t think Heinen is anything special, but he must be more efficient than that.

Letang and Guentzel were also guilty of penalties in the third period, for good measure.

• It was a horrible loss.

The Islanders are not very good because they played without the injured Mat Barzal and Josh Bailey. While Sorokin was brilliant, the rest of the islanders were extremely unimpressive. And yet they still won. You can’t let that happen. The Penguins outshot them, 47-32.

• I love Malkin’s fight. You can’t say he doesn’t care.

• And now?

Connor McDavid arrives in town on Thursday. How do you think this will turn out? Then the Penguins will play four of their next five games on the road, including two matchups with Tampa Bay.

The last six were horrible again. If Ron Hextall doesn’t move to help this team, the Penguins are toast and won’t make the playoffs. Even with one or two additions, where do they go?

The Penguins are in big trouble.

(Photo of the Islanders celebrating the goal scored by Anders Lee (hidden). Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry kneels in the foreground: Charles LeClaire/USA Today)

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