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The Penguins can’t stop blowing leads

It’s happened 12 times in 14 games.

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Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks
Sidney Crosby recovers from a blown Penguins lead— their 11th in 14 games— with the go-ahead goal which sealed the Penguins’ 5-3 victory in Chicago on November 20, 2022.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

When Jujhar Khaira scored for the Blackhawks midway through the second period on Sunday night, Pittsburgh fans knew what was coming.

Yes, the Penguins were still up 3-1. But the writing was on the wall: the team was going to blow this lead.

Sure enough, with under five minutes remaining in the third, Philipp Kurashev tied it at 3-3 for Chicago.

Sidney Crosby’s determination to make Evgeni Malkin’s 1,000th game a win meant two points, and that this blown lead doesn’t really matter— except for how often this exact same thing has happened to the Penguins over the past month.

In the month since October 23, when a 6-3 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton kicked off a seven-game losing streak, the Penguins have played 14 times.

Of those 14 games, during which the Pens are 5-7-2:

  • In two wins, the Penguins always held their lead.
  • In three losses, they never had a lead to hold.
  • And in nine games (three wins, six losses) they blew a lead— or multiple leads.

Of those nine games with blown leads:

  • The Penguins blew five multi-goal leads (three two-goal leads, two three-goal leads.)
  • They blew multiple leads in the same game twice (against the Canadiens, they had and lost the advantage three times.)
  • In total, the Penguins gained a lead, only to have the other team tie it up, 12 times.
NHL: NOV 20 Penguins at Blackhawks
Chicago’s Philipp Kurashev celebrates after his third period tying goal erased what had been a three-goal lead for the Penguins on Sunday.
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So, what’s the verdict?

Pro: No lead is safe. As of the Penguins’ 5-3 win in Chicago on Sunday night, NHL teams are averaging 3.18 goals per game— that’s the highest league scoring rate since 1993. That means a three-goal advantage isn’t the cushion it once was, and it makes every random weekday game more exciting to watch.

Con: No lead is safe. For the first time in a month, Penguins have climbed to the edge of the playoff bubble, but that seven-game losing streak hasn’t left them with a lot of wiggle room. Occasionally, like in Winnipeg on Saturday, this team looks like it knows how to protect a lead. The Penguins will have to show that more often if they’re going to be in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving, a date which generally serves as a fairly accurate predictor of who is going to be in the playoffs next spring.