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Penguins’ Season Hits Rock-Bottom (Probably), 7-2



The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t blow a third-period lead this time.

There was no late-game heartbreak, no gut-wrenching spasm of misfortune when the game was on the line.

No, this one was over long before the final period rolled around.

By the time those 20 minutes got going, the only real uncertainty might have been whether the Penguins could keep Edmonton’s goal total from reaching double-digits.

Which they did.

Perhaps surprisingly.

Then again, the Oilers didn’t have much reason to press the issue by that point, considering that they already were up, 6-1, in what would become a 7-2 victory.

The loss was the Penguins’ fourth in a row and fifth in their past six games, and arguably their most disheartening of the season.

“Tonight, without a doubt, was a step backward,” Mike Sullivan said.

The Oilers looked significantly faster and more skilled and, from all indications, more motivated.

And a whole lot more likely to be in the Stanley Cup playoffs than the team they humbled.

“I’m not sure we liked a whole lot about our game tonight,” Sullivan said.

Before the game, he flipped the wingers on his bottom two lines, moving Drew O’Connor and Josh Archibald up to the No. 3 unit with Jeff Carter and dropping Brock McGinn and Kasperi Kapanen to the fourth, which is centered by Teddy Blueger.

After Edmonton built a 4-1 lead in the second period, Sullivan also flipped his top two centers, putting Evgeni Malkin between Jake Guentzel and Rickard Rakell and Sidney Crosby with Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust.

Sullivan said he did that because “I didn’t think we had a whole lot going on.”

Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft made a pregame personnel move of his own. scratching fourth-line winger Klim Kostin and dressing seven defensemen and just 11 forwards.

The Penguins got the best start for which they could have hoped — Kris Letang staked them to a 1-0 lead just 65 seconds after the opening faceoff — but the Oilers dominated the rest of the period, ultimately building a 2-1 advantage and 14-3 edge in shots.

Letang scored his sixth of the season when he took a pass from Rust and skated diagonally to the inner edge of the right circle before throwing a shot past Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner. Malkin got the second assist.

Edmonton entered the game with the top-ranked power play in the NHL, but the Penguins were able to kill a minor Letang was assessed for tripping Connor McDavid at 8:57.

The Pittsburgh Penguins took two more penalties before the first intermission, and the Oilers capitalized on both of them. Quickly.

Rickard Rakell went to the penalty box for boarding at 12:55, and McDavid put a shot off goalie Tristan Jarry and into the net from along the goal line to the left of the net just 23 seconds later.

The goal was McDavid’s 45th of the season, a career-high, and his 17th on the power play.

P.O Joseph picked up an interference mnor at 17:33, and Edmonton was in front, 2-1, 16 seconds later.

Leon Draisaitl got the goal by swatting a Tyson Barrie rebound out of the air and past Jarry to put the Oilers in front to stay.

The Penguins finally got a chance with the man-advantage with 24.6 seconds to go before the intermission when former teammate Cody Ceci was called for high-sticking Jake Guentzel, but they were not credited with a shot while Ceci was in the box.

Edmonton snuffed any comeback hopes the Penguins might have had — not that they really should have had any, considering how the game was playing out — by scoring twice in a span of less than two minutes during the first half of the second period.

Kailer Yamamoto made it 3-1 at 6:06 by sweeping in a loose puck from the crease and Devin Shore piled on by scoring from inside the left dot at 7:50. Shore’s goal capped a sequence that began when Jarry gave the puck away behind the Penguins’ goal line.

Draisaitl set up Warren Foegele on a 2-on-1 break at 15:10, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored at 18:54 to put the Oilers up by five.

Sullivan replaced Jarry, who allowed six goals on 29 shots, with Casey DeSmith for the start of the third.

The Penguins thought Malkin pulled them within four by scoring during a power play at 17:32, but the goal was disallowed after the Oilers challenged that the play had been offside and a video review confirmed that it was.

They had another goal waved off at 8:25, after Carter deflected a shot past Skinner with a high stick.

McDavid made it 7-1 by beating DeSmith on a penalty shot at 16:27. The penalty shot was awarded after Brian Dumoulin tripped McDavid while he had a breakaway.

Letang closed out the scoring with a goal at 18:12.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex at noon Friday before flying to St. Louis, where they will face the Blues Saturday at 3:38 p.m. Eastern.