The Pittsburgh Penguins struggles against good teams and similar problems giving up goals immediately after scoring were on full display on Tuesday. Less than 30 seconds after Jeff Carter tied the game in the second period, the Penguins relinquished the lead and were never again even. Connor McDavid had four points, including a deal-clinching goal in the third period, as Edmonton was too much for the Penguins, 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena.
If they haven’t yet, the warning bells in the Penguins’ room should be going off. In their last 11 games against playoff teams dating to mid-March, the Penguins have just three wins. The Penguins have only four wins in their last five games.
The Penguins only saving grace, the New York Islanders were headed to victory over the Washington Capitals, which preserved the Penguins one-point lead for third place, though Washington retains one game in hand.
Wayne Gretzky-Mario Lemieux. Jaromir Jagr-Eric Lindros. Sidney Crosby-Connor McDavid. Hockey fans don’t often get to watch generational talents face-off, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have not hosted the Edmonton Oilers since Nov. 2, 2019. Sidney Crosby is one of the game’s all-time greats, and Connor McDavid will likely finish his career in the same pantheon.
OK, maybe Lindros belongs in that sentence, maybe not. For a time, he certainly did. Don’t get hung up on that.
Before the game on Tuesday, head coach Mike Sullivan also expressed his appreciation of the event.
“We’re privileged here in Pittsburgh because we’ve been able to watch Crosby and Malkin and Letang and these guys for a long time and see what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished. And McDavid and Draisaitl are the next generation,” Sullivan said.
The first period wasn’t heavy on the matchup. Crosby didn’t have any shots. McDavid had only one shot, but did get an assist.
The Penguins third defensive pairing and Jeff Carter’s line did get hemmed in by McDavid’s line later in the first period. The Penguins could not gain possession after a couple of wall battles, and defenseman Evan Bouchard (12) beat goalie Casey DeSmith on the glove side with a 30-foot wrister from behind the dot.
Bouchard scored again early in the second period, but Penguins replay savant Andy Saucier noted a skate blade was offside but about an inch, and the goal was overturned.
The Penguins nearly scored a power-play goal midway through the period. Instead, the tally was even strength as Jeff Carter (19) pounded in a rebound off the back wall a moment after a Penguins power play expired. It was Carter’s 23rd goal in 37 career games against Edmonton.
As it has happened several times in the recent weeks…
The Pittsburgh Penguins gave it back…
Gave it right back.
Just 25 seconds after Jeff Carter celebrated a tie game and before PA announcer Ryan Mill, who has good taste in sports coats, could announce the goal, Edmonton reclaimed the lead.
The Edmonton Oilers never relinquished it. Or, the Penguins never tied it.
McDavid went wide on defenseman John Marino. Danton Heinen, Brock McGinn, and Brian Dumoulin converged on Kailer Yamamoto in the slot, but no one took away his stick or space. Yamamoto’s quick backhand pass set up Evander Kane (22) for an easy backside goal.
Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson took a tripping penalty early in the third that seemed to seal the Penguins fate. Edmonton had significant momentum and the Penguins didn’t challenge.
Bryan Rust earned a hooking call in the middle of the period. Connor McDavid (44) snapped a power-play goal, and the PPG crowd began to filter home.
Zack Kassian scored the empty netter (after Derrick Brassard’s EN goal was overturned for offside).
Casey DeSmith left a few crumbs on the table but was otherwise solid. He stopped 37 of 41 before being pulled for the extra attacker. Edmonton goalie Mike Smith nearly scored an empty-net goal but the puck took a late bounce just wide. He stopped 31 of 32 shots.
Smith won his 10th in a row, which tied Grant Fuhr for an Oilers record.
Penguins winger Jason Zucker left the game in the first period. Sullivan did not have an update, other than being evaluated for a lower-body injury.