So much for the notion that shutting out Colorado Thursday might be a pivotal moment in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season, and not just a positive one.
What they hoped would be the start of a winning streak proved to be nothing more than a smudge, as whatever momentum was generated by beating one of the NHL’s top teams dissipated during what became a 5-2 loss to Ottawa at PPG Paints Arena Saturday night.
The defeat dropped the Penguins, who have lost four of their past five games, to 3-5, while the Senators — one of the clubs the Penguins figure to battle for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoff field — improved to 4-4 after dropping their previous three games.
Colorado, conversely, had come to town after winning an NHL-record 15 consecutive regular-season road games.
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, who had been outstanding against the Avalanche, was pulled at 5:28 of the second period, after giving up three goals on nine shots.
Defenseman Erik Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner and centerpiece of the Penguins’ offseason makeover, failed to record a point for the fourth consecutive game.
Ridly Greig staked Ottawa to a 1-0 lead just 4:24 into the game when, with his back to the net, he deflected a Claude Giroux shot past Jarry while Kris Letang was serving a cross-checking penalty.
The Penguins had an opportunity to counter when Senators forward Josh Norris was sent off for cross-checking at 5:38, but they failed to capitalize, just as they did after Senators defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker picked up a delay-of-game minor at 11:29.
Forty-five seconds after Bernard-Docker’s penalty expired, Brady Tkachuk beat Jarry, who was not screened, from the left dot to put the Senators up, 2-0.
That gave Ottawa two goals on its first five shots.
The Penguins, meanwhile, launched 22 pucks at Senators goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who entered the game with a 1-5-1 career record against the Pittsburgh Penguins, during the opening 20 minutes, but failed to get any past him.
Although Travis Hamonic appeared to make it 3-0 at 4:20 of the second period, when his shot from just inside the blue line eluded Jarry, whose vision seemed to be obscured by Penguins defenseman Ryan Graves, the goal was waved off after a video replay determined that, per a challenge by the Penguins, the play had been offside.
Had it counted, Hamonic’s shot would have been the Senators’ first of the period.
It turned out, though, that the reprieve was temporary, as Senators winger Dominik Kubalik lashed a shot past Jarry from near the top of the right circle at 5:28, swelling Ottawa’s advantage to 3-0.
That goal prompted Mike Sullivan to replace Jarry with Magnus Hellberg.
The Penguins finally broke through on their 31st shot, as Sidney Crosby set up at the front lip of the crease and directed a Bryan Rust feed from the left circle past Korpisalo at 17:34 for his fifth of the season. Letang got the second assist.
Crosby’s goal, however, proved to do nothing more than spare the Penguins the ignominy of being shut out.
Any hope they had of salvaging a point or two disappeared at 13:07, when Tkachuk flipped a backhander past Hellberg after pulling the puck around Marcus Pettersson near the left side of the crease.
Just 31 seconds later, Drake Batherson got behind the Penguins’ defense and threw a backhander by Hellberg to put Ottawa in front, 5-1.
Jake Guentzel got his second of the season at 19:26 to close out the scoring.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a scheduled day off Sunday. They will practice Monday at 11 a.m. at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex before closing out their four-game homestand Tuesday against Anaheim.