Penguins Fall Out of East Playoff Field With 2-1 Loss
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff hopes are collapsing like a waterlogged tissue.
Their 2-1 loss to Ottawa at PPG Paints Arena Monday night was their fourth defeat in a row — all in regulation — and, coupled with Florida’s 5-2 victory in Detroit, dropped the Penguins out of the Eastern Conference playoff field.
They are two points behind the New York Islanders, who hold the first wild-card spot, and one in back of the Panthers, who now have the second. The Penguins and Florida have played 70 games, one fewer than the Islanders.
Points don’t figure to be any easier to come by for the Penguins in the next few days. They visit Colorado, the defending Stanley Cup champion, Wednesday and are in Dallas the following night.
“We’ve got some tough opponents coming up,” Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve got to be able to brush this one off.”
Ottawa’s victory kept its playoff prospects on life-support. The Senators trail Florida by six points.
Senators forward Drake Batherson scored the game-winner from the top of the crease during a power play at 17:51 of the third period. He got that goal while Chad Ruhwedel was serving a hooking minor.
The Penguins played with a defense corps held together by duct tape, best wishes and Kris Letang; Marcus Pettersson, who has been paired with Letang of late, was put on the Long-Term Injured list and their Nos. 2 and 3 right-side guys, Jeff Petry and Jan Rutta, already were sidelined by injuries, as is Dmitry Kulikov.
Petry is the only one who appears to be a candidate to return in the near future, although no target date for that has been revealed.
Mike Sullivan also reconfigured his bottom two lines, putting Ryan Poehling between Danton Heinen and Mikael Granlund on the No. 3 unit and Jeff Carter between Drew O’Connor and Josh Archibald on the fourth line.
The Penguins ran up a 19-8 advantage in shots during the opening period, but Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot got the only goal then, beating Tristan Jarry high on the stick side from the inner edge of the right circle at 16:46.
The Penguins were awarded the only power play of the period when Ottawa center Ridly Greig was called for tripping Evgeni Malkin at 5:33, but they were unable to beat Dylan Ferguson, whose first start in the NHL turned out to be spectacular as he stopped 48 of 49 shots.
They could have gotten another when Senators right winger Austin Watson rather blatantly dropped Sidney Crosby with a cross-check from behind with a little more than five minutes to go before the intermission, but no call was made.
The Penguins did get their second chance with the extra man after Ottawa was caught with too many men on the ice at 3:42 of the second, but again failed to capitalize.
Jarry kept the Penguins within a goal by stopping a Brady Tkachuk breakaway about 7 1/2 minutes into the period and their penalty-killers prevented Ottawa from scoring after Letang was called for cross-checking at 16:53.
The Penguins finally broke through on their 47th shot, as Rickard Rakell beat Ferguson from about 10 feet in front of the net at 14:39, but Ottawa reclaimed the lead less than three minutes later.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to fly to Denver Tuesday and practice at Ball Arena at 4 p.m. Eastern. They will play the Avalanche Wednesday at 8:08 p.m. Eastern before traveling to Dallas for a game against the Stars Thursday night.