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Why can’t the Penguins get a handle on overtime?

The Penguins have dropped seven of 10 overtime opportunities— and been held to one shot or fewer five times.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk scores on Casey DeSmith 25 seconds into overtime on January 18 at Canadian Tie Centre in Ottawa, Ontario. The Penguins lost, 5-4.
Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

If you want to watch Penguins overtime hockey, do not go fix a snack between the final whistle of the third and the start of the extra frame.

It could all be over before you sit back down.

Brady Tkachuk scored just 25 seconds into overtime against the Penguins in Ottawa in Thursday, marking the Penguins’ 7th loss in 10 overtime opportunities.

This is the third time this season the Penguins have lost in overtime on the opposing team’s first shot.

It happened for the first time on November 29 against the visiting Hurricanes in what might have been the strangest overtime ending of the season. After a few possession changes, Bryan Rust was hit into the players’ bench from behind by Canes forward Seth Jarvis. The Penguins hesitated, expecting the referees to blow the whistle. In the ensuing confusion the Hurricanes picked up the puck, tapped it back and forth on a 2-on-0 rush, and stuffed it under Tristan Jarry’s pad. After the game, Rust called the play “fairly bizarre.” (Hurricanes won, 3-2.)

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins
Bryan Rust battles Carolina’s Stefan Noesen for the puck at PPG Paints Arena on November 29. A hit laid on Rust in overtime caused the confusion which led to the Canes’ overtime goal.
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The visiting Hurricanes scored on their first shot of overtime again on December 22. Malkin lost the opening face-off. The Hurricanes knocked the puck around in defensive zone while Malkin forechecked, but he got caught behind the net on their first rush. A few touch passes on the ensuing 3-on-2, and Jaccob Slavin was able to shove the puck home just 23 seconds into overtime. (Hurricanes won, 4-3.)

The Penguins suffered their third first-shot-against overtime goal of the season this Thursday, on January 18. It’s not every night you get three points out of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and still record a loss, but the Senators scored on their first rush of the extra period and marked the Penguins’ second loss in under 30 seconds of overtime this season. (Senators won, 5-4.)

Overall, since overtime was introduced to the NHL in 1983, the Penguins have allowed a goal against on the first shot of overtime 45 times, according to Bob Grove.

NHL: DEC 28 Red Wings at Penguins
Casey DeSmith faces down Detroit’s Jake Walman during overtime at PPG Paints Arena on December 28. Walman scored, cementing one of the Penguins’ seven OT losses so far this season.
Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thursday also marks the fifth time the Penguins have been held to one or fewer shots in overtime during this season’s losses.

On October 17, when the Penguins lost 3-2 in Montreal, Crosby won the face-off, but Kris Letang’s cut to the net on the Penguins’ initial set-up was broken up and the Canadiens went streaking the other way. After that the Penguins were under siege— Casey DeSmith came an inch from a brutal giveaway, and Canadiens earned a breakaway shot on a clumsy Penguins change. A brief 3-on-1 Penguins charge ended with an Evgeni Malkin shot on net, but that marked the end of Pittsburgh control. Jeff Petry was called for cross-checking, and the Canadiens dominated until they scored. (The Penguins recorded 1 shot in 3:09 of overtime.)

On November 12, during a 5-4 loss to the Canadiens in Montreal, Kris Letang was the first to a loose puck which had shot all the way out to the neutral zone after the Habs’ initial possession. Letang dropped a pass for a net-front Jake Guentzel, but the Canadiens picked up Guentzel’s rebound, set up behind the net, won a race against Penguins forecheckers to turn their next charge into a odd-man rush, and scored. (1 shot in 1:03.)

On November 29, when the Penguins lost 3-2 to the visiting Hurricanes, possession changed hands at least five times in the extra frame, but there were no shots before the fateful maybe-it-was-boarding of Bryan Rust. Thanks to missed passes and laissez-faire puckhandling, neither team had enough to control to get a puck on net until two Canes found themselves alone in front of Jarry during the non-call kerfuffle. (0 shots in 2:20.)

On December 22, when the Hurricanes downed the Penguins 4-3 at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins were never particularly close to getting possession in the extra frame. It was over as soon as Malkin lost the initial face-off. The Canes scored on their first rush. (0 shots in 0:23.)

On January 18, during Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Senators in Ottawa, Claude Giroux won the extra-time face-off against Sidney Crosby— has the baton finally been passed?— but lost control, and Marcus Pettersson managed to wrist a shot on Cam Talbot before the Senators picked up the rebound, went the other way and ended the night early. (1 shot in 0:25.)

NHL: JAN 18 Penguins at Senators
Marcus Pettersson defends against an onslaught from the Ottawa Senators during the third period on January 18. Pettersson recorded the Penguins’ only shot of overtime.
Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Faceoff losses. Overcommitting to forechecks. Poorly-timed penalties. Flubbed passes. Missed rebounds. No-calls. In these seven losses, there’s a host of places where one could point the blame.

But it’s been almost a month since head coach Mike Sullivan said the team’s overtime performance has not been “nearly what it needs to be.” What does this team need to change to prevent being run over in the extra frame?