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Penguins Have Another Late-Game Letdown in 2-1 Loss to Kings



Some of the most venerated figures in Pittsburgh Penguins history were at PPG Paints Arena Sunday to celebrate one of their own.

They came, of course, to honor Jaromir Jagr, who joined Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere as the only players in franchise history to have their numbers retired.

And most, if not all, stuck around following Jagr’s banner-raising ceremony to watch the 2023-24 Penguins — a group that includes at least a couple of guys who figure to receive a similar tribute in future years — lose to Los Angeles, 2-1.

And to witness how these Penguins could use an infusion of the kind of offense routinely produced by some of Jagr’s long-ago teammates who were on hand, like Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Ron Francis and, of course, Lemieux.

They were able to score just once, and Kings winger Adrian Kempe got two goals in the final six-plus minutes — the second while Los Angeles was shorthanded — to hand the Penguins their fourth defeat in the past five games.

The loss dropped the Penguins’ record to 24-21-7.

They are 10 points behind Philadelphia, which holds the third and final automatic playoff berth in the Metropolitan Division, but have four games-in-hand on the Flyers. The Penguins trail Detroit, which is in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference by seven points, with two games-in-hand on the Red Wings.

The Penguins had hoped to feed off the emotion of the Jagr ceremony, but seemed sluggish early and managed only one shot on Kings goalie Cam Talbot during the first 7 1/2 minutes of play.

Although Los Angeles got the first power play of the game when Penguins winger Reilly Smith was penalized for tripping Kempe at 7:32 of the opening period, it was the Penguins who seemed to generate momentum while Smith was in the penalty box.

That proved to be just the start of a strong special-teams showing during the first period.

While the Penguins failed to score when Kings center Pierre-Luc Dubois was sent off for slashing Erik Karlsson at 12:26, they moved the puck well and generated good pressure.

And when Dubois picked up a minor for roughing Colin White at 18:43, the Penguins needed just five seconds to capitalize.

Sidney Crosby got the goal, his 31st, by driving a slap shot past Kings goalie Cam Talbot from the top of the right circle. Karlsson and Bryan Rust received assists.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ penalty-killers came through again early in the second, after Kris Letang was called for holding Kings center Anze Kopitar at 1:39. Still, Los Angeles had four shots on goal while Letang served his penalty, and looked more dangerous than it had on its first try with the extra man.

That unit was pressed into service again when Crosby was guilty of hooking at 9:04; this time the Kings were held without a shot.

The Penguins didn’t do much better after Los Angeles winger Alex LaFerriere tripped Lars Eller at 12:44, forcing Talbot to make just one save.

Although the Kings didn’t score during the second, they had the better of play, as reflected by their 13-6 advantage in shots then.

Jarry preserved the Penguins’ lead with an exceptional save two minutes into the third period, as he denied Dubois after he broke down the slot alone.

LaFerriere was assessed his second tripping minor at 5:01, but the Penguins were unable to manufacture an insurance goal.

Kempe spoiled Tristan Jarry’s bid for a league-high seventh shutout when he scored at 13:49.

The Penguins had a chance to regain the advantage when Kings foward Trevor Moore shot a puck over the glass and got a delay-of-game penalty at 14:57, but it was the Kings who scored while he was in the box.

Kempe’s shorthanded goal was the 10th Los Angeles has scored this season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Monday at noon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.