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Why Do Penguins Have Such an Awful Overtime Record?



Carolina Jaccob Slavin OT goal

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a roster built to thrive in regular-season overtime.

They have elite offensive talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel, among others, who should benefit from all of the extra time and open ice that’s available when a game has been distilled to 3-on-3.

They have a goaltender capable of covering up for any breakdowns his teammates have, of thwarting even the most gifted opponent who might get the puck in a high-danger area.

They have an experienced lineup, loaded with guys who have proven they are comfortable in high-stakes, high-stress situations.

What they don’t have is a record that comes close to reflecting any of that.

Their 4-3 loss to Carolina at PPG Paints Arena Thursday night, when Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin ended the extra period just 23 seconds after it began, was their fifth defeat in the six games that have been settled in overtime this season.

“I don’t think our overtime performance to this point of the season has been nearly what it needs to be,” Mike Sullivan said. “And we’re leaving points on the table because of it. We’ve got to get better there.”

The Penguins have surrendered no fewer than five points in games that have stretched past regulation. And when the fight for playoffs seeding — or even berths — is as fierce as it is shaping up in the Metropolitan Division, points earned or lost in overtime can have a profound impact on how a team is positioned going into the postseason.

Or even whether it participates in the playoffs at all.

Consider this: If the Penguins’ 1-5 record were reversed, they’d be no worse than tied with the Metro-leading Hurricanes, pending the outcome of Carolina’s game against Philadelphia Friday night.

And that assumes the Penguins’ lone overtime defeat would be one of the two they’ve actually suffered against the Hurricanes during the past month. (That’s probably a reasonable assumption, since Penguins stats man extraordinaire Bob Grove noted that Carolina has won seven of its past eight games against the Penguins that ended in overtime. What makes that particularly peculiar is that Carolina is just 4-6 in overtime this season, including losses in three consecutive games last month.)

Regardless, rather than hovering near, if not at, the top of the division, the Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with the New York Rangers for third place. That’s significant, since only the top three finishers in each division are guaranteed to have a spot in the 16-team playoff field.

While the Penguins have been guilty of giving up high-quality scoring chances during some of those overtimes, it’s hard to ignore that Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have been beaten by five of the 11 shots they’ve faced during the extra periods this season, including one in what became a 2-1 shootout victory over Calgary.

The numbers are especially striking for Jarry. He has faced seven shots during overtimes in 2022-23, and stopped only three.

Remove the extra periods from his stats, and Jarry’s save percentage is .924, up from .920.

DeSmith, meanwhile, faced four shots during his only overtime appearance, a 3-2 loss in Montreal Oct. 17.

Of course, goalies often don’t deserve all — or, sometimes, any — of the culpability for goals given up during overtime.

With only six skaters on the ice then, mistakes can be magnified, and one Malkin made on the first shift of the overtime Thursday cost the Penguins any chance to earn a second point.

Malkin chased Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin around the Hurricanes’ net and did not catch up with the play before it reached the other end of the ice and Slavin put a shot past Jarry to end the game.

Malkin took full responsibility for his blunder, which didn’t exactly go unnoticed by Sullivan.

“You just can’t chase behind the net,” he said. “If you chase behind the net, it’s an automatic 3-on-2 the other way.”

Malkin, it should be noted, generally fares well in games that extend beyond 60 minutes; he has 13 regular-season overtime game-winners, tying him for 10th-most among active players.

It’s also not as if overtime games always have been a problem for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fact is, they won 10 of their previous 15 going into this season.

There’s no question that they have the personnel to win more than their share of overtime games. But if that’s not possible, perhaps they can focus on just trying to get through those five minutes without giving up a goal.

After all, they have as many victories in one shootout in 2022-23 as they do in six overtime decisions.