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The biggest Penguin killers in the NHL

Steel yourself, it’s time to remember Brock Nelson and Anders Lee doing incredibly bad things again

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

As we freshen up some summer content from last year, it’s time for the uncomfortable feeling of the players who lit the Penguins up the most.

If you close your eyes and haven’t flipped the computer screen down or thrown your phone across the room, you are probably seeing the image of Brock Nelson and/or Anders Lee. Maybe just the Islanders in general.

Last year Pittsburgh went 0-3-1 against NYI, compounded by a three week stretch from February 17th - March 9th. The Pens had a third period lead in each of the three games, only to be out-scored 8-0 combined in third period/OT’s by the Islanders.

It was like watching a horror movie over and over, where you knew the ending, but were powerless to stop watching it unfold the exact same way over and over again. That stretch was at the height of frustration last year, as the Pens slowly saw their playoff cushion evaporate. Fittingly enough, NYI ended up with 93 points and made the playoffs. The Pens had 91 and missed. While the Chicago game stands out as a true butterfly effect loss, it’s also fair to go back to those three PIT/NYI games and see just why and how the season melted away.

Here are the top 2022-23 season scorers against the Penguins from the NHL’s official website.

Some painful tidbits, if you can handle it:

  • Nelson did score 75 points on the season, but only 64 points in 78 games against everyone else in the league besides the Pens. Against them, he morphed into some Gretzky/Lemieux hellscape of a player.
  • 25% of all the goals Anders Lee scored this season came against the Pens. With a 43.8% shooting percentage, Pittsburgh is probably just lucky he wasn’t able to shoot the puck more.
  • The Islanders duo wasn’t the only one to bring pain. New Jersey had a breakout year, and padded that by going 4-0-0 against the Pens (Pittsburgh snuck in one OT loss to not get totally blanked at 0-3-1). Dawson Mercer also had a breakout season with 56 points, and his performance against the Pens is a big reason why. He recorded 12.5% of his season total in the four games against Pittsburgh.
  • Ex-Penguin David Perron had a little more in the tank against one of his old teams, tallying four goals in just three games vs. PIT. He only got 20 in 78 against everyone else.
  • Jack Eichel and Leon Draisaitl shared the Western Conference scoring title against the Pens, each pumping in five points in just two games. Shockingly enough, Pittsburgh held Connor McDavid without a point on October 24th - just one of seven games all year that McDavid wasn’t on the scoresheet. He made up for that by dropping 2G+2A in the notorious Edmonton blowout win in Pittsburgh that had fans in the arena turn against Ron Hextall collectively and audibly.
  • There’s a lot of star power above, as to be expected. The big guys are going to score. But an out of place name and a big “what are we even doing here moment” is Kaiden Guhle’s four assists in three games for Montreal. Guhle only had 10 assists in the 41 non-Pittsburgh games of his season.

Beyond this year and for all active players, unsurprisingly Alex Ovechkin leads all opponents in goals (39) and points (71) as well as games (72) against Pittsburgh. Ovechkin added 2G+0A to that total in 2022-23, mitigated a bit by the Pens going 2-0-1 against Washington this season.

For all-time, the leading scorer vs. PIT is and likely will remain Wayne Gretzky who put up an absurd 124 points in just 57 games against the Pens. Nelson has his work cut out for him, but hopefully the nightmares of the past will not repeat again.