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Flames’ Late-Game Comeback Torches Penguins, 4-3



The Pittsburgh Penguins just might have made Kyle Dubas’ mind up for him Saturday night in Calgary.

They had a 3-1 lead over the Flames midway through the third period, but gave up three unanswered goals to absorb a 4-3 defeat that might be their most devastating loss in a season that’s been full of them.

And it certainly enhanced the chances that Dubas, the Penguins’ president of hockey operations and general manager, will move aggressively to deal personnel before the NHL trade deadline Friday at 3 p.m.

Dubas had been saying that he didn’t want to finalize a course of action until the Penguins (27-23-8) showed whether they were capable of at least making a serious run at a playoff berth.

The chances of doing that took a major, perhaps lethal, hit Saturday night, as Yegor Sharangovich put an exclamation point on the Flames’ comeback by scoring the game-winner from the slot with 50 seconds to play in regulation. The goal was set up by Mikael Backlund, who stole the puck from Kris Letang before feeding it to Sharangovich for his second of the game.

That gaffe capped a performance by Letang that figures to turn up in his nightmares for quite a while.

The Penguins, who had given up a power-play goal in each of the previous three games, went down a man just 3:13 into the opening period, when Rickard Rakell was sent off for tripping Backlund, but Calgary couldn’t capitalize.

The Penguins got a chance with the man-advantage when Calgary’s Nazem Kadri was penalized for holding Sidney Crosby at 9:32. They were unable to score, despite generating three shots on Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom while Kadri was in the box.

Rakell had three goals in the two games that preceded the Penguins’ shutout loss in Seattle Thursday, and he had an opportunity to put them in front with 6:40 remaining in the first period, after a Lars Eller pass sprung him behind the Flames’ defense. Rakell, though, missed the net as he closed in on Markstrom.

The Pittsburgh Penguins had a clear edge in play throughout the opening 20 minutes, as evidenced by their 14-3 advantage in shots.

And the last two of those ended up behind Markstrom, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead at the intermission.

Jonathan Gruden, appearing in his ninth NHL game, got his first career goal at 16:42, when he scored on a harmless-looking shot from the bottom of the left circle that caromed off Markstrom and into the net. There were no assists.

Calgary winger Jakob Pelletier tripped Drew O’Connor at 18:13 and this time, the Penguins cashed in while they had the extra man.

Eller got the goal with 33.2 seconds left in the period, swatting a puck out of the air and into the net from the right side of the crease. Valtteri Puustinen and Sidney Crosby got assists on the goal, Eller’s 12th.

Much that the Penguins achieved during the opening 20 minutes was negated by a Puustinen turnover that led to a Flames goal early in the second.

Puustinen tried to pass to Kris Letang, who was near the Penguins’ blue line, but Sharangovich ended up with the puck and burst down the right side before beating Tristan Jarry from the bottom of the right circle at 3:37.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ penalty-killers were called upon just 25 seconds later, when Erik Karlsson was penalized for tripping, and again prevented the Flames from scoring.

Jarry preserved the Penguins’ lead in the middle of the period with a toe save on a Backlund shot from inside the right circle during a 2-on-1 rush, and Calgary defenseman Noah Hanifan missed the net on an uncontested backhander from point-blank range with 6:40 to go in the period.

There was a close call at the other end with 3:03 remaining before the second intermission, as Reilly Smith put a shot off the crossbar from above the left hash mark.

The Penguins got a bit of breathing room at 2:51 of the third, as Jeff Carter deflected in a Ryan Graves shot from high along the left-wing boards for his seventh. Noel Acciari received the other assist.

The Penguins had an opportunity to close out the game after the Flames were caught with too many men on the ice at 8:08.

Instead, their lead evaporated in less than three minutes.

Things began to unravel when Emil Bemstrom took a tripping minor at 9:49, ending the Penguins’ power play. Twenty seconds later — and just one second into the power play the Flames got because of Bemstrom’s penalty — Kadri charged down the right side and got around Letang before flipping a shot past Jarry.

The crowd still was celebrating that when Blake Coleman beat Jarry from between the hash marks at 10:41 to make it 3-3.

Coleman was penalized for interfering with Jarry at 17:01, but Eller was assessed a high-sticking minor just seven seconds after that.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will close out their four-game road trip Sunday in Edmonton at 9:08 p.m. Eastern. As usual when playing on consecutive days, they will not have a game-day skate.