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Major Meltdown: Penguins Blow Late Lead, Lose 4-3 in OT



The Pittsburgh Penguins made some franchise history Thursday evening.

And they can’t be very happy about it.

Their 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders at PPG Paints Arena allowed the Islanders to sweep the season series for the first time since they entered the NHL in 1972.

More importantly, the loss dropped the Penguins two points behind New York in the battle for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff field. The Penguins have three games-in-hand on the Islanders.

The Penguins were poised to take sole possession of the first wild card until New York scored twice during the final six minutes of regulation to put the game into overtime.

Brock Nelson then gave New York the victory by beating Tristan Jarry on a breakaway at 2:13 of the extra period.

Evgeni Malkin became the Penguins’ all-time leader in penalty minutes at 4:44 of the opening period, when he ran his career total to 1,050 by interfering with Islanders winger Pierre Engvall.

He wasn’t in the penalty box for long, however, as Anders Lee threw a shot past Jarry from the slot at 5:23 to put New York up, 1-0. The goal was Lee’s seventh — yes, seventh — in four-plus games against the Penguins.

That failed penalty-kill aside, however, the Penguins got a good start, and Jake Guentzel pulled them even at 11:07, when he deflected a Marcus Pettersson shot past New York goalie Ilya Sorokin for his 26th of the season.

Pettersson’s assist was his 100th career point; Sidney Crosby got the second one.

The Penguins were unable to capitalize on a power play after Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield interfered with Guentzel at 15:29, but New York had been back to full strength for just 55 seconds when Jason Zucker beat Sorokin from between the hash marks to put the Penguins up, 2-1.

Assists went to Malkin, who fed the puck to Zucker, and Jeff Petry.

The goal was Zucker’s 22nd of the season and seventh in five-plus games.

Guentzel made a blatant unforced error when he jumped onto the ice while five teammates already were out there, putting New York on the power play at 3:42 of the second.

The Penguins killed that, and got another chance with the man-advantage themselves when Mayfield was called for high-sticking Zucker at 7:29.

Josh Archibald gave the Penguins a little breathing room, however inadvertently, at 10:49, when a Brian Dumoulin wrist shot from the left point appeared to glance of his glove and sail past Sorokin.

Dumoulin and Petry received assists on the goal, Archibald’s fifth.

Mayfield completed his hat trick of penalties when he was sent off for tripping at 11:48, but the Penguins again were unable to capitalize during their time with the extra man.

The Penguins took a two-goal lead into the third period, but presumably hadn’t forgotten that they also led New York in their previous two meetings — Feb. 17 and 20 — and lost both in regulation.

The Islanders had an opening to get back into the game when Jan Rutta was penalized for elbowing at 3:39, but the Penguins got through those two minutes unscathed, thanks in part to a few quality stops by Jarry.

Jarry had been pulled Tuesday night after allowing four goals in 12 shots; the previous nine times that happened to him, he went 8-1 in the game that followed.

Drew O’Connor took an ill-considered hooking minor in the offensive zone at 9:47, and the Penguins’ penalty-killers — who have struggled mightily for several months — came up with another solid showing to preserve the 3-1 lead.

However, Hudson Fasching cut their advantage in half at 14:31, as he took a pass from Casey Cizikas and fended off Mikael Granlund before beating Jarry from in front of the net and Anders Lee forced overtime with his second of the night at 18:45, when he set up at the front lip of the crease and deflected a shot through Jarry’s legs.

Lee’s goal means New York outscored the Penguins, 8-0, during the third period in their four meetings this season.

After the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins called off their practice scheduled for noon Friday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and will instead conduct an off-ice workout.