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Penguins/Oilers Recap: Pittsburgh tastes regulation defeat for first time this season

An absolute disaster of a second period goes to sink the Penguins, who give up five unanswered goals in Edmonton and fall 6-3 to the Oilers

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports


Drake Caggiula makes his Pittsburgh debut in the one lineup change to bring the Penguins back to a 12-forward lineup and extra defender Chad Ruhwedel going back to the healthy scratch list.

First period

Great energy and action early with the two teams setting a tone of free-flowing action and a lot of fast skating. It’s the Oilers who strike first and just 4:36 into the game. Bryan Rust dumps a puck in, where it’s handled by play-making defender Evan Bouchard. Unfortunately for the Pens, Bouchard makes a play by quickly moving the puck through Evgeni Malkin and Brian Dumoulin and springing Zach Hyman on a breakaway. Hyman dekes to the backhand and beats Tristan Jarry to get Edmonton on the board.

The Pens tie the game up on the power play. The superstars on the first group don’t generate much, they give way for the second group and some nice zone entry work by Jason Zucker eventually finds Rickard Rakell deep. Rakell is given room to step into a heavy wrister, so he does just that and buries it past Jack Campbell off the post and in the net to bring Pittsburgh even at 1-1.

Less than two minutes later, the Pens would follow it up with another goal. Bouchard would dump a puck to goalie Jarry and Bouchard’s luck would turn this time on such plays. Jarry would return it towards the sender with a long clearing pass to Rakell. Rakell raced down the left wing, drawing the defense in and made a cross-ice pass for Sidney Crosby. Crosby got enough one the one-timer to beat Campbell and give the Pens a lead at 2-1.

Pittsburgh got four more minutes of power play time when Darnell Nurse high-sticked Crosby, but despite some good shots at the net could not extend the lead.

Still, a great opening period for the visitors, who carry a 20-8 shot edge (aided by three power plays, to none against) and a 2-1 lead after 20.

Second period

The Pens keep after it and score again an even 2:00 into the second. Bryan Rust follows up a shot with another attempt and is able to bank the puck in off of goalie Campbell from behind the net. A Hornqvist special, if you will. 3-1 Pittsburgh.

The game then changes when Jeff Petry takes down Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ captain goes crashing hard back first into the post. Petry is off for the Pens’ first penalty of the game, McDavid is in considerable pain and leaves for the dressing room. It doesn’t slow Edmonton, they score soon after on the power play from a long shot by Tyson Barrie to draw within one goal at 3-2.

The teams trade some penalties, McDavid returns but looks uncomfortable and the Oilers are chipping away at the shot edge that Pittsburgh built up in the first period.

On Edmonton’s 21st (!!) shot of the second period, Evander Kane would tie the game. Leon Draisaitl made the play from behind the net to center it for Kane. Kane made a quick move to snap the puck short-side on Jarry in what was starting to just feel like a matter of time before Edmonton’s onslaught would erase the Pens’ lead.

The Pens could not make it into intermission to regroup before the Oilers took the lead. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found a loose puck after a period of extreme puck control for Edmonton and snapped it past Jarry.

It got even worse with Draisaitl burning through Brian Dumoulin and then tapping in a nice finish to make it 5-3 with just 22 seconds left in the period. It looked like Dumoulin was trying to clear the puck and go make a change, and oof, that went wrong.

Mercifully, the buzzer sounds to end the period. The Pens took four shots in the second period. Edmonton scored four goals (on 26 total shots). Yikes.

The Pens almost made it out of the period at 3-3. Almost being the key word. Two goals in the last 1:32 (and three goals in the last 4:51 of the period) changed the course of the game under the unrelenting pressure by the Oilers.

Third period

The Pens elect to make some lineup changes in-game for the first time. Danton Heinen’s quiet night costs him his place on the Crosby line and bumps him back to play with Jeff Carter. Kasperi Kapanen moves up from the Carter line to play with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker. And Bryan Rust makes the leap up back to play with frequent partner Crosby.

Not much changes though, the Pens take a penalty but kill it off. Kane is sprung on a breakaway to potentially erase all doubt but Jarry stones him with a great glove save.

Pittsburgh gets a late power play and doesn’t score and the writing on the wall of an impending loss starts to get visible. Then Edmonton leaves no doubt. Derek Ryan drops a pass for Ryan McLeod who is all alone and McLeod is able to walk in and snipe Jarry to give EDM a 6-3 lead with 3:15 left.

About luckily at this point, that’s the last scoring play of the game.

Some thoughts

  • The odd thing was that the Pens played one of their best opening periods in a very long time in this game. And then the bottom fell out.
  • Shots were 24-1 in favor of Edmonton in the last 16:29 of second period, the period of time after McDavid crashed into the post. That’s just unreal. And I could be in the total minority, but I don’t think it had much to do with the Penguins — the Oilers just completely took over. A line change to put Evander Kane with Draisaitl paid off in a big, big way. The Pens had no answers whatsoever for a prolonged stretch of time, that doesn’t speak well about them. Edmonton’s star players were snapping the puck around, getting to the front of the net and then firing pucks in. The Pens (and especially Brian Dumoulin, on ice for four EDM goals and Kris Letang who was on for three) were left trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
  • Per the incomparable Bob Grove: “That difference of -22 shots matches worst in Pens’ history; Pens[were] outshot 26-4 in the opening period @ Hartford on Feb. 26, 1989 in 6-8 loss.” Not quite the type of history to be making, but sometimes it does be like that.
  • It’s lost in the shuffle now, but still encouraging to see Rakell and Zucker contributing and playing well.
  • Dumoulin and Letang are always under a microscope and didn’t look good tonight, but again, I really think it said more about the Oilers (and specifically Draisaitl’s burst) than the Pens. Dumoulin got burnt late in the second, but it’s also not the whole story when during a line change no one is around to stop the Oilers from zooming back at speed.
  • Pittsburgh’s second power play group scored, but as predicted in the game preview, the top power play looked rough with Petry in it. The breakouts were challenging, the big dogs all had about ~3:45 of PP time and didn’t do too much with it. The Pens also don’t have a traditional 1-3-1 power play any longer, so between the blue line and the left wall, there’s no real spot for Petry or organization on how to incorporate him. The spot would be better used with a forward like Zucker or Rakell, both of whom have been great on the second power play this season.

The good news for the Pens is they don’t have to marinate on this game very long, they’re right back at it tomorrow night in Calgary and will be looking for a bounce-back effort.