PITTSBURGH — Who would have guessed Brian Dumoulin? The Pittsburgh Penguins won the puck battles. Controlled the puck in the offensive zone and limited the Edmonton Oilers to only a few offensive chances. But hockey is not scored on a judges point system and Edmonton converted its best chance while Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel just missed a few of theirs. The Penguins pushed and poked until Dumoulin scored a shorthanded goal late in the third period tied the game and sent the patient home crowd into a frenzy. Then all hell broke loose in OT.
After the teams furiously traded chances without a whistle for over three minutes, Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl (13) scored the game-winner in OT. Edmonton won 2-1.
The Penguins fired a season-high 52 shots at Edmonton goalie Mike Smith. The Edmonton goalie turned away 51 of 52. Penguins netminder Matt Murray wasn’t often challenged, until late in the third period. He made 21 saves in regulation and stopped 25 of 27.
“Smith stole one,” Murray said of his rival.
The 2-1 final wasn’t without heart-stopping excitement.
Edmonton took a penalty moments after Dumoulin tied the game, and in the resulting four-on-four play, the crowd erupted, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid led a two-on-one, then had another point-blank chance. Penguins goalie Matt Murray made those saves by a toe and by the grace of diving defenseman Justin Schultz.
Edmonton went for the kill on the third period power play, but the Penguins speedy penalty killers Teddy Blueger and Bryan Rust counter attacked. Rust set up Dumoulin in the slot for the ice-breaking Penguins goal. Finally.
The Penguins lineup got a big boost with the return of all-world center Evgeni Malkin. The big Russian led the Penguins with five shots through 40 minutes and six shots overall, but perhaps tired as he missed the last four weeks of game action. Eight Penguins had at least four shots on goal, but the big break never came.
The full Penguins roster yielded deeper results down the lineup. The Penguins constructed what amounted to an all-star fourth line centered by Teddy Blueger with Zach Aston-Reese on the left, and $21 million free-agent signee Brandon Tanev. They dominated opponents in the first period with 11 shots and attempts but did not yield a single shot attempt in the first period. The Penguins got seven of those shots on net, five were scoring chances and four were high danger chances.
Aston-Reese almost won the game in the final minute with a deflection which trickled just wide of the net.
While the Penguins fourth line shined, the Edmonton fourth line scored. Center Colby Cave (1) flew past Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson for a short breakaway chance and pulled the puck around goalie Matt Murray for the only goal of the first 40 minutes.
The Penguins dominated the first 40 minutes and outshot Edmonton 35-15. They outshot Edmonton 17-7 in the second period alone and 52-28 overall. However, they were also 0-for-five including three late second-period power-play chances.
“I thought the power play had some good moments, but also some moments where it was not so good,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “…The only thing I think that we’re missing right now is finish…”
While the Penguins jabbed, Edmonton used the rope-a-dope strategy including the big finish and eventual knockout punch.