PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins showed good puck support and had some hop in the opening moments of the game. That was short lived as the Penguins gifted the San Jose Sharks a trio of special teams goals in the first period including the Penguins league-leading 13th shorthanded goal-against. The Penguins never challenged the team they vanquished for the 2016 Stanley Cup and San Jose coasted to a 4-0 win at PPG Paints Arena.
Just 57 seconds into the game, San Jose scored the first of the three special teams goals. Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith served a pizza in the slot but no Penguins penalty killer was hungry and Tomas Hertl continued his Penguins torture. Hertl (27) snared the loose puck in the slot and easily lit the lamp.
Since Jack Johnson took the penalty which put San Jose on the power play, Penguins Twitter began to warm up.
The Penguins could have evened the game several minutes later but their power play was again more generous than greedy. Penguins winger Phil Kessel tried to stickhandle past San Jose All-Star defenseman Brent Burns. That turned out as badly as it could have as Burns poked the puck ahead to Evander Kane (27) for a shorthanded breakaway goal.
It was the Penguins 13th shortie allowed this season and even the fans in the rafters could hear head coach Mike Sullivan grind his teeth.
Midway through the first period, San Jose made it a party. Penguins defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Johnson followed the puck battle towards the top of the zone. Johnson and Ruhwedel failed to secure the puck or the play and left the zone empty. After they collided, Penguins forward Matt Cullen crashed into DeSmith, and three San Jose players stared at the open net.
Hertl (28) had the honors, which was his fifth goal in two games against the Penguins.
“Not good, no. That was the story of the game,” Matt Cullen told Pittsburgh Hockey Now. “We’ve got to go to school on that one and get better before the next one.”
The Penguins kept their nose clean in the second period, including Phil Kessel who remained so clean he passed up shots despite being unabated to the net. It was that kind of night.
“We still had some chances to get back in it,” said Crosby. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t get that first one to get us going and get us back in it.”
After the goals were scored in the first period, the teams traded naps and blown chances until a TV timeout late in the third period. Kane skated across the red line to stare at the Penguins bench as they designed a play. Tempers flared, San Jose defenseman Brandon Dillon punched Sidney Crosby. Crosby hit Dillon several times and lots of players had conversations with opponents gloves.
Referees dished several misconduct penalties including ejecting Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, who was otherwise furious with the lack of calls which led to the line dancing.
Marcus Pettersson, Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sullivan received misconduct penalties. Tanner Pearson and Evander Kane were given five-minute fighting majors.
It was the most life the Penguins showed since the first 10 minutes.
For further insult, San Jose scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal in the final minutes. San Jose managed to come out ahead from the melee and Kessel followed it with a high-sticking penalty on the following face off.
Brent Burns (12) blasted a slap shot from the circle past DeSmith. Burns had three points (1g, 2a).
The Penguins managed only 26 shots, though they passed up nearly that many. DeSmith stopped 29 of 33 in the lopsided loss.
The teams combined for 80 penalty minutes, including 49 by the Penguins.