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Major Meltdown: Penguins Blow 4-0 Lead in 5-4 OT Loss



The start of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ game against Detroit was just a couple of hours away, but they still weren’t over what had happened the night before on Long Island.

Understandably so, considering how thoroughly they had been dominated by the New York Islanders en route to a 5-1 defeat.

“Last night was a humbling experience for all of us,” Mike Sullivan said. “Those are tough ones to take, sometimes. They’re not easy to explain.”

Perhaps not, but disappointing performances apparently aren’t all that difficult to replicate. Or surpass.

The Penguins certainly did that by squandering a 4-0 lead against the Red Wings in what became an improbable — and potentially devastating — 5-4 overtime defeat at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday evening.

Red Wings defenseman Jake Walman capped Detroit’s comeback by scoring the game-winner at 2:13 of the extra period.

The loss put the Penguins’ record at 19-10-6 and lifted them into a tie with Washington for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Mark Friedman made his 2022-23 debut on the third pairing, opposite P.O Joseph. He was filling in for Chad Ruhwedel, who suffered an unspecified upper-body injury on Long Island.

Sullivan also tweaked the right wingers on his bottom two lines, moving Danton Heinen from the fourth line to the third and dropping Kasperi Kapanen to the fourth.

The Penguins entered the game with a number of forwards in serious goal-scoring droughts. They went into the first intermission with no fewer than three of them addressed.

Drew O’Connor, who had not scored in his previous 23 NHL games — his most recent recent goal at this level came on Oct. 23, 2021 — staked them to a 1-0 lead at 2:36 of the opening period, when he swiped a shot past goalie Ville Husso from inside the right circle.

The goal was made possible by Teddy Blueger, who stole the puck near the Red Wings’ blue line and gave it to Kapanen, who slid a cross-ice feed to O’Connor.

Kapanen picked up his second assist of the period during a power play at 10:15, as he dug the puck free from along the boards behind the Detroit net, then carried it back across the goal line before setting up Jeff Carter at the inner edge of the right circle.

The goal was Carter’s fifth of the season, but just his second in the past 16 games. It also gave the Penguins at least one man-advantage goal in 11 of their past 12 games.

Jason Zucker’s dry spell was almost as severe as Carter’s — he had scored once in the previous 15 games — but he set about remedying it at 14:15, as he came off the left-wing boards and drove to the net before sliding a backhander past Husso for his seventh.

Zucker obviously enjoyed the feeling, because he picked up No. 8 during a power play with 31.2 seconds to go in the period, jamming the puck across the goal line during a scrum in the crease. Carter’s assist on that goal was his 400th in the NHL, making him the 100th player in league history to accumulate both 400 goals and 400 assists.

Husso stopped just eight of the 12 shots he faced during the first 20 minutes, and was replaced by Magnus Hellberg at the start of the second period.

Whether Detroit coach Derek Lalonde made the switch because he didn’t like Husso’s work or because he was hoping to change the momentum of the game, it certainly achieved the latter.

Sidney Crosby welcomed Hellberg to the game by stealing the puck from Red Wings defenseman Ben Chiarot and breaking in alone about 3 1/2 minutes into the period, but he was unable to beat Hellberg.

The Red Wings spoiled Casey DeSmith’s shutout bid — and ended the Penguins’ streak of successful penalty-kills at 23 — when Dylan Larkin scored from the right side of the slot at 7:17, while Rickard Rakell was serving an interference minor.

Even that goal-against came with a bit of an asterisk, though, because penalty-killer Brock McGinn had to play without a stick for an extended stretch before Larkin scored.

Coincidentally or otherwise, another Penguin — this time, Crosby — was playing without a stick as Joe Veleno deflected a Chiarot pass behind DeSmith at 14:32 to make it 4-2.

Detroit manufactured its third unanswered goal with five minutes remaining in regulation, as Jonatan Berggren scored from the bottom of the right circle to get the Wings within a goal, and David Perron forced overtime by scoring during a power play at 16:52, 11 seconds after the Penguins were caught with too many men on the ice.