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Oilers’ Offense Much Too Slick for Penguins, 6-1



The Pittsburgh Penguins have been utterly unpredictable for most of this season.

Although they are the oldest team in the NHL, they won the second game when playing on consecutive days the first six times they were in one.

But the ample experience that comes from being the league’s oldest club has been of little value when it comes to protecting late-game leads, which should be second nature to a club loaded with veterans and possessing one of the league’s best defensive records.

There was, however, nothing the least bit surprising about the Penguins’ 6-1 loss to Edmonton — which was their third defeat in a row and dropped their record to 27-24-8 — at Rogers Place Sunday night.

The Penguins looked very much like a group coming off a soul-scorching 4-3 loss in Calgary Saturday, when the Flames scored three unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation — including the game-winner with 50 seconds to go. And a group that has begun to accept the utter improbability of qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Oilers, meanwhile, performed with the swagger of a team that had won its previous three games and was just a few weeks removed from stringing together 16 wins in a row. And, oh yeah, that possesses an offensively volatile lineup headlined by the gifted likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and expects to be working late into the coming spring.

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, making his first start since Feb. 20, denied McDavid from point-blank range 3:25 into the opening period.

He followed that with a quality stop on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from below the left hash about five minutes later, and Oilers center Mattias Janmark was penalized for holding when play was stopped at 8:36.

The Penguins, who had scored on five of their previous 19 power plays, put two shots on Edmonton goalie Calvin Pickard while Janmark was in the box.

Zach Hyman put the Oilers in front to stay, 1-0, at 14:07, when he drove to the net and knocked in the rebound after Nedeljkovic had stopped McDavid’s shot from the left side during a 2-on-1 break against Marcus Pettersson, as Erik Karlsson was caught up ice.

It was the fifth time in the past six games the Penguins gave up the first goal.

McDavid’s assist extended his scoring streak to 11 games.

The Oilers exploited another odd-man break to raise their lead to 2-0 early in the second.

They had a 3-on-1 against Kris Letang, and Corey Perry steered in a feed from Ryan McLeod at 2:57.

Less than three minutes later, Edmonton was up, 3-0, on Hyman’s second of the game. He beat Nedeljkovic from the inner edge of the left circle after getting inside Ryan Graves and taking a feed from Draisaitl.

The Penguins were caught with too many men on the ice — probably not a bad tactic, since it sometimes looked as if Edmonton had three or four more guys out there than they did — at 11:22, but managed to kill the penalty.

Jansen Harkins, still looking for his first goal of the season, had an opportunity to spoil Pickard’s shutout bid when he was awarded a penalty shot at 17:05, after Edmonton’s Brett Kulak hooked him on a breakaway, but Harkins’ shot went wide of the left post.

While a goal there wouldn’t necessarily have had a major impact on the outcome, the two Edmonton scored shortly thereafter erased any lingering doubt about it.

McLeod put the Oilers in front by four when he banked a shot off Nedeljkovic’s head and into the net from along the goal line to the left of the net at 18:47, and with 49.9 seconds to go in the period, former Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci threw a shot past Nedeljkovic from the right dot.

The Penguins were able to prevent Edmonton from further running up the score during a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 73 seconds early in the third period, limiting the Oilers to two shots.

That was a short-lived setback, though, as McDavid tossed in a Draisaitl rebound from inside the right circle at 6:03 to put Edmonton ahead, 6-0.

The only positive all night for the Penguins came at 12:23, when Evgeni Malkin punched in a shot from the right side of the crease to break a 13-game goal-less streak. Reilly Smith and Rickard Rakell got the assists.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to travel home from Edmonton Monday. They will face Columbus Tuesday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.