NEWARK, N.J. — The Pittsburgh Penguins had to like at least one thing about the first minute of their game against New Jersey at Prudential Center Sunday.
That it only lasted 60 seconds.
They gave up a 2-on-1 break on the first shift, then allowed a goal 56 seconds after the opening faceoff, as Jack Hughes put a shot over Tristan Jarry’s glove.
That might not have been the gold standard for bad starts, but it was at least a medalist.
There was, however, an awful lot for the Penguins to like in the 60-plus minutes that followed. At least until the final few shifts of what became a 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils.
Sidney Crosby pulled the Penguins even at 6:25 of the first, and his team had the better of play for much of regulation.
“I thought, for sure, we played well enough to win,” Mike Sullivan said.
Marcus Pettersson actually scored what appeared to be a game-winning goal for the Penguins at 1:28 of ovetime, when he beat Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek from the left side, but it was immediately waved off because the Penguins had too many men on the ice.
And the extra man in question was Pettersson, who said “I wanted to get the jump on the 2-on-1” (break) by the Penguins.
The infraction was clear enough that the Penguins didn’t particularly protest.
“It was the right call,” Sullivan said.
And it proved to be a decisive one, as Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton ended the game 39 seconds after the penalty was called.
Pettersson said he wasn’t immediately aware that he had gone on the ice prematurely, but didn’t dispute the referee’s decision after reviewing the video evidence.
“I didn’t hear the whistle at first,” he said. “But I looked at it after. It was the right call. I have to be better.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins limited the Devils, whose lineup is laced with skilled and speedy young talent, to 25 shots on goal, including just two in the second period.
While the Penguins lost out on a second point in the standings, they did prove that they are capable of defending effectively against a talented, fast opponent.
“I thought we played really hard,” Sullivan said. “That’s a team that has a high-octane offense. I thought that, for the most part, we did a real good job defending. Guys played hard. We played a pretty solid hockey game. We didn’t get the result, but I thought that, for most part, we played a hell of a hockey game.”
He noted, though, that the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to struggle in games that go to overtime. They have won just two of 10 decided in the extra period so far this season.
“We haven’t had success in overtime, and that’s an area that’s been a point of emphasis for us since the start of training camp,” Sullivan said. “I think a lot of it boils down to details. To a certain extent, we have to do a better job.
“We have to have tighter line changes. We have to have smarter line changes. Line-changing is a big part of overtime. That’s one area where I think we have to do a better job.”
Ryan Poehling was activated from injured-reserve and played a sold two-way game while centering the fourth line. He logged nine minutes, 12 seconds of ice time and accounted for three of the Penguins’ 26 shots.
He also nearly got a potential game-winner about two minutes into the third period, when the game was tied, 1-1, and he got the puck alone in front of Vanecek.
“I pulled it back and shot it,” Poehling said. “I think he got his blocker on it and it ended up hitting the crossbar. … That was frustrating. I thought it was going in.”
That sequence aside, Poehling said he “felt good” in his return after sitting out the previous nine games and 12 of the previous 13 because of an unspecified upper-body injury.
His performance earned a positive review from Sullivan.
“I thought he played real well,” Sullivan said. “He helps us in so many areas.”