Is there cause for concern following yet another loss of a third-period lead?

The Penguins faced significant challenges last season when it came to maintaining their third-period leads. In 37 games last year, the Penguins found themselves in the advantageous position of leading as they entered the third period. However, out of these games, they managed to secure only 28 wins, suffered 4 losses, and played to 5 ties, leading to a points percentage of .757, which ranked them 28th in the league.

The consequence of these lost leads was a substantial 13-point deficit in the standings. If they had held onto just two more points in the standings by successfully protecting one additional third-period lead for a win, it could have made the difference between making the playoffs or experiencing an early exit last season. These points were missed opportunities throughout the year and ultimately proved costly by the time April arrived.

The Penguins are determined not to repeat the mistake of leaving crucial points on the table this season.

In their season opener against the Blackhawks at PPG Paints Arena, they carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, courtesy of goals from Bryan Rust and Sidney Crosby, only to let it slip away in the final 20 minutes. This raises concerns about whether this trend will persist.

Many of the blown leads from the previous season followed a common pattern: the Penguins dominated the first two periods but faltered in the third. However, in this game, the first period was relatively even, and the second period saw each team scoring a goal. Although the Penguins outshot the Blackhawks 15-10 in the second period, the Blackhawks had the edge in total shot attempts at 27-22.

Surprisingly, the Penguins did not collapse in the third period. In fact, they tightened up their defense, allowing fewer shot attempts, unblocked attempts, and shots on goal compared to the first two periods. They permitted just nine shots on goal in the third after allowing 27 in the first two periods. However, these shots proved to be more detrimental.

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Despite an unfortunate bounce leading to the tying goal, the Penguins aren’t making excuses. They acknowledge the role they played in letting the Blackhawks capitalize on that opportunity. They believe that they can create their own luck by playing a more disciplined and north-south style of hockey.

The Penguins struggled to generate scoring opportunities in the third period, with one high-danger attempt compared to the 11 they had in the first two periods combined. Some players mentioned potential frustration, while others felt that the team was opting for the “easy plays.”

Kris Letang believed that the Penguins became too passive in the third period and need to return to their fast, physical, and energetic style of play.

It’s too early to draw conclusions based on one game. The Penguins have undergone significant changes, with 10 new players on the 22-man roster, and seven of them were in the lineup for this game. Mike Sullivan, the head coach, emphasized the need to play more responsibly and acknowledged that the game didn’t reflect the team’s full potential.

Marcus Pettersson highlighted the importance of playing smarter to preserve third-period leads.

The Penguins have time to address these concerns and improve their performance as the season progresses.

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