WINNIPEG, Manitoba — For the second straight night, a fluky bounce was the exclamation point on an inadequate Pittsburgh Penguins performance and decided their fate. An uncalled puck in the netting that led to the Minnesota Wild’s game-winner Friday was followed by a first-period carom off the back wall directly to noted Penguins nemesis Nino Niederreiter and a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Canada Life Centre.
Winnipeg defenseman Nate Schmidt’s slap shot from the point went wide but bounced directly to Niederreiter.
“Lively boards. I (was) playing the shot from the blue line,” said Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. “It goes off the yellow, and (Niederreiter) was able to get to it before I am.
“Unlucky. I think if you shot that 100 times, I think it might happen three or four (times).”
The loss dropped the Penguins at least three points out of a wild-card spot. They trail the Detroit Red Wings by seven points with only two games in hand. They’re nine points behind the Philadelphia Flyers with four games in hand.
This one stung.
Coach Mike Sullivan was ready to pop on Saturday night. His words had an intense undertone of being fed up. This was not a loss the Penguins were fluffing off, taking positives, nor was it a panic-inducing loss. This was something different.