Penguins Embarrass Coyotes In 6-1 Romp In Pittsburgh

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin led the Pittsburgh Penguins in a rout of the visiting Coyotes and handed them their third loss on the road trip.

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Malkin Leads Penguins In 6-1 Rout Of Coyotes

However much good the Phoenix Coyotes did during their seven-game winning streak at the end of November was completely washed away with the events that transpired at the CONSOL Energy Center on Monday night. Looking to get back to .500 on this road trip, the Coyotes were embarrassed against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing 6-1.

Leading the way for the Pens was star forward Evgeni Malkin. While Phoenix didn't do much of stopping anything on Monday, the big Russian gave the Coyotes the biggest headache, finishing with five points, including a pair of goals and a trio of assists. Sidney Crosby had a game as well, with three points of his own, extending that streak to 21 games in a row with a point.

If Jason LaBarbera was trying to make a case for more playing time, he certainly took a step back on Monday. With no Ilya Bryzgalov, LaBarbera saw his third start in a row, but would not finish the game. After allowing five goals on 22 shots, LaBarbera was pulled in favor of AHL callup Matt Climie, who would allow one goal for the rest of the game.

It wasn't as if he got much help from the blueline, however. Similar to the loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Coyotes' defensemen struggled throughout the night. Phoenix's top four defenseman each finished with a minus rating, with Derek Morris contributing the only point from a d-man, assisting on the lone Phoenix goal, which came on a fluke deflection off of Wojtek Wolski.

Both teams had a hard time staying out of the box, in what became a very physical game. Despite the fact that the Coyotes spent less time in the box than Pittsburgh, they failed to capitalize on any of their opportunities with the man advantage, looking much of the time like they were at full strength, though they were playing a man up. The Penguins, however, netted three power play goals.

Frustrations mounted for the Coyotes, particularly in the third period. Taylor Pyatt was booked for fighting, Vernon Fiddler was hit with a double minor, and both Scottie Upshall and Nolan Yonkman received game misconducts. 

The loss sends the Coyotes to 1-3 on the road trip, with two left to play before they return to Jobing.com Arena next week. After sneaking up on the National Hockey League last year, these Coyotes aren't sneaking up on anybody, and may not have realized it yet. It will take strong leadership from more than just Shane Doan to rebound from a loss like Monday night.

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Phoenix Coyotes Face Tough Test In Pittsburgh Vs. Hot Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins may be in the midst of a two-game skid, but the Phoenix Coyotes will still have their hands full with the star-studded squad. Prior to their past two, the Penguins won 12 in a row before it was snapped by the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Pens are led, of course, by captain Sidney Crosby, whose exploits this season are well-documented. The young star has 54 points in 33 games this season, and is on a career-high 20-game point streak. Fellow star Evgeni Malkin has three goals in his two games since returning from injury.

For Phoenix to stop the high-powered Penguin attack, they'll need strong goaltending from Jason LaBarbera, who is expected to start his third consecutive game. LaBarbera has two of three for the Coyotes on the road trip, both of them in New York against the Rangers and Islanders. Starter Ilya Bryzgalov is still out with the flu and is listed day-to-day.

LaBarbera allowed six goals between the two games on 80 shots, including 44 against the Isles. His performance during the shootout on Saturday helped the Coyotes nab the victory.

Goals will be tough for Phoenix to come by, with the defensive strength of the Penguins, which includes Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang. Letang is Pittsburgh's second-leading scorer with 27 points and leads a defensive unit that's giving up just 28 shots per game, good for third in the league.

Behind the defense is former first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes for the Pens. After a rough start, Fleury has been back to his puck stopping ways, winning 11 of his last 12 and only allowing more than two goals once in his last 10.

For the Coyotes to sneak out of Pittsburgh with a win, they're going to have to best the Pens on special teams. While their power play ranks higher than Pittsburgh, the Pens boast the league's second best penalty kill. The bigger key for the Yotes will be staying out of the box. Their nine penalties made it tough on them to beat the Islanders on Saturday and has cost them in games past. Pittsburgh will be no exception.

Monday will be a rare occasion for the Coyotes, playing a team from the Eastern Conference for the second time this season. Pittsburgh took the first contest at Jobing.com Arena, 4-3 in a shootout, as part of the Coyotes' early season struggles in the extra time.

Phoenix not only has a chance to get themselves back to .500 on the road trip, but can also prove themselves as legitimate contenders with a win over one of the league's best. Two points would also vault the Yotes back into contention in the West, if the Anaheim Ducks end up on the losing end of a tilt with the Boston Bruins.

With the Coyotes' inability to get up for games against the lower tier teams in the league, compared to their performance against contending teams, Phoenix could be gearing up to play some of the most exciting hockey they've displayed all season.

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