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Ugly goals haunt Pens in 5-2 loss to Canucks

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Jake Guentzel’s two power play goals were not enough to stuff the Canucks, as the Penguins lost to Vancouver on Thanksgiving Eve, 5-2.

It did not take long for the Canucks (11-8-3) to get on the board, taking advantage of Brian Dumoulin falling down just past his own blue line. That miscue opened up a lane for Brock Boeser at the 3:52 mark in the first, and the rookie delivered a wrister over goaltender Matt Murray’s glove.

Jake Guentzel tied it up two and half minutes later on a power play goal, knocking in a rebound on his own shot, with assists going to Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, but that did not sway Mike Sullivan’s assessment of the Penguins’ (11-9-3) opening minutes.

“I thought from the very first shift, we had opportunities to play behind them, and we didn’t,” Sullivan said. “We’re making soft plays at the lines and they’re knocking pucks down, and as a result, we don’t have the opportunity to establish the game we want to play.”

While Sullivan may have not liked the start his team had, tough luck goals continued to haunt the Penguins throughout the night and defined the game. Two minutes after Guentzel’s equalizer, Kessel caught a bad bounce when retreating with the puck on his own end. The puck hit a broken stick on the ice, bouncing right to Thomas Vanek, resulting in a Loui Eriksson goal to make it 2-1 Canucks.

In the second, Derrick Pouliot’s power play shot seemed to be going six feet wide, but it bounced off of Dumoulin and kissed the back of the net.

“Pretty much all the goals allowed were kind of hilarious,” Murray said. “...You’ve got to look at some of those goals and just laugh.”

Murray described the Kessel goal as “about as unlucky as you can get.”

Boesser added a power play goal later in the period. Guentzel scored his second power play at the 80 second mark of the third (assists to Kessel and Sidney Crosby), but the Penguins could not convert again.

Brandon Sutter tacked on an empty netter with 80 seconds remaining to cap the scoring.

Murray made 32 saves on 36 shots. Anders Nilsson made 43 saves.

Guentzel to Center

Guentzel made his first career start at center Wednesday, anchoring the second line. The left-winger was originally drafted as a center in 2013, and earned the start at his native position when Evgeni Malkin was scratched with an upper-body injury.

Guentzel won three of his seven faceoffs, blocked two shots, attempted six shots and picked up half a dozen hits in addition to his two goals.

Sullivan said he was hoping for more out of the second line, but that was not necessarily “a criticism of Jake, in particular.”

“Overall, playing the center ice position, I thought he was fine,” Sullivan said. “He played both ends of the rink. We knew it was going to be an adjustment for him to go there, but we were hoping to get a little bit more consistent offense or consistent zone time from that line, in particular.”

There is no word yet on how long Guentzel will start at center. Malkin will be reassessed before Friday’s game against the Bruins.

Power Play Woes

The Penguins’ penalty kill continued to struggle, killing only one out of Vancouver’s three power plays. The Pens have allowed a league-high 22 power play goals this year. Their penalty kill percentage currently sits at 75.8%- the fifth worst in hockey.

“I don’t think our penalty kill got any sort of puck luck tonight,. That didn’t help,” Sullivan said. “...We can’t continue to give up two shorthanded goals and expect to win.”

Sullivan added that he saw some progress with his special teams and felt they did not give up a significant amount of chances.

On Deck:

The Penguins will travel to Boston Friday to take on the Bruins at 1 p.m.. They will return to Pittsburgh the following day to face the Lightning on Nov. 25.

NUMB3RS:

1. Crosby drew four penalties Wednesday. He had drawn just four in the team’s first 22 games.

2. Boeser scored five goals against the Penguins this year (he had three in the Canucks’ 4-2 win on Nov. 5).

3. Wednesday was Guentzel’s first two goal performance since Nov. 11, 2016- his NHL debut.

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