PHILADELPHIA — The end of a long road trip. Traveling to and from the day of a game. Another injury to a defenseman. A power play that failed to give anything resembling a boost.
The reasons were many for the Penguins’ 4-0 flat-liner Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
Some are worth worrying about. Others not so much.
Lose another body on the back end, as the Penguins did with Ron Hainsey after two periods? Yeah, that can be problematic.
Especially when you consider they already were missing Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley. Poor Jacques Martin had to juggle five defensemen for what seemed to be about the 43rd time this season.
“We have a lot of guys with some overextended minutes right now that we’re trying to do a better job to manage,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “It gets tough when you go down players during the game, especially on the blue line. There’s only six of them. You lose one, now you’re down to five. Guys are forced to have to play minutes. That’s just the nature of the business. It seems like it’s been happening to us every game so far on this road trip. Hopefully, we can try to stay healthy here down the stretch.”
Sullivan had no information on Hainsey’s injury, either the nature of it or when he could return.
And if it seems like it’s happening every game, it is. The Penguins completed their five-game trek through two countries, four time zones and more than 5,000 miles and actually did lose five players to injury: Carl Hagelin, Matt Cullen, Mark Streit, Hainsey and Patric Hornqvist.
Cullen and Streit returned Wednesday, but this stuff is getting old fast.
Yet the cumulative effect of this road trip, plus having to travel to Philadelphia the morning of this game, aren’t things the Penguins are cool with using as excuses.
“At the end of the day, we’re professionals,” said Matt Murray, who allowed four goals on 28 shots. “It’s difficult. It’s not something we’re used to doing or something you want to do, but that’s just how things went. I think we had a pretty good start. I don’t think it affected us too much. I think they just outplayed us, honestly.”
The Flyers scored two goals in the second period to take command, and the second really hurt.
Wayne Simmonds converted a rebound on the power play at 6:20. Murray blamed himself. Said he “fell off his post a little bit.”
“That one’s probably on me,” Murray said. “That one’s a tough one to give up, on the power play.”
Claude Giroux and Dale Weise added third-period tallies, but how decisively the Flyers won the special-teams battle is a worth paying attention to from this one.
Simmonds scoring meant the Penguins have given up a power-play goal in seven of their past 11 games. They’ve fought like crazy to improve their penalty kill, but it’s a problem that just won’t go away.
On the flip side, the Penguins couldn’t get a spark from their own power play. In fact, they basically threw the clock radio in the bathtub with the water running while failing to score — or look the least bit functional — on two chances.
“Our power play wasn’t sharp,” Sidney Crosby said.
“Obviously, the power play wasn’t very good,” Sullivan added.
“We struggled on the entries. I think the power play on these kinds of nights has an opportunity to be the difference, for sure. We didn’t get it done. It was one of those nights where it seems like it’s a struggle.”
The Penguins had a chance to tie Washington for the top overall record in the NHL, but instead they remained stuck on 95 points, one ahead of Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Their six-game point streak (5-0-1) came to a close.
That it happened on a night like this might seem predictable, but the Penguins (43-17-9) aren’t content to play the excuse game.
“I think everybody is tired at this point of the season,” Cullen said. “Obviously, it’s been a long trip for the guys. In games like this when we don’t have our best jump, we need to find a way to play a little simpler game and settle for spending time in their end, keeping it tight and giving ourselves a chance to win at the end. I thought we opened things up, gave them a lot of extra opportunities that we didn’t need to, and the game ended up getting out of our control.”
Ian Cole blocked four shots and broke Rob Scuderi’s franchise record (164 in 2008-09). Cole now has 167.
Murray took a Travis Konecy knee to the mask at 8:26 of the second period but stayed in the game. Murray said Konecny apologized.
Jason Mackey: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JMackeyPG.