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Penguins' struggles in back-to-backs continue as they fall to Jets, 7-1

Sam Werner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Hockey

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Going into their game against the Jets on Sunday, the Penguins made a number of changes to try and reverse their troubling trend of blowout losses in second legs of back-to-backs.

They had their No. 1 goalie between the pipes, and Mike Sullivan even juggled the lineup to try and inject some life into a struggling offense.

The result was just more of the same.

The Penguins lost to the Jets, 7-1. They are now 0-4-0 in the second halves of back-to-backs this season, outscored in those four games by a combined 29-7.

But this time, there was no Antti Niemi to pin the troubles on. Niemi, waived earlier this week struggled in those first three games, to be sure, but Sunday's result indicated the problems might run deeper.

Matt Murray started the game in the net, but didn't make it out of the first period. He was pulled in favor of Casey DeSmith after the Jets posted a 4-0 lead in the first 18:07.

Things didn't get much better when DeSmith -- making his NHL debut in less-than-ideal circumstances, to say the least -- came on. Blake Wheeler scored on the Jets' first shot against him, giving Wheeler a hat trick and the Jets a 5-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

But, like the first three losses in these circumstances, goaltending was hardly the Penguins' biggest problem.

The Penguins were sloppy with the puck in critical areas, notably around their own blue line. Defensemen pinched forward but didn't get the puck, creating odd-man rushes the other way.

The Penguins' superstars were among the worst offenders. Kris Letang was credited with five giveaways -- four in the first period alone. Evgeni Malkin turned the puck over at the Penguins' blue line to lead to Wheeler's second goal.

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