EDMONTON, Alberta – It might have been a signature win for the last-place team in the Western Conference, but all it left the Penguins with was a sinking feeling.
The Penguins turned the puck over, took costly penalties and lost leads of two goals and one goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night at Rexall Place.
“It’s a game we let slip away, without question,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s a game we let slip away because of the way we played. We didn’t take care of the game, and we let a point go.”
The Oilers won it on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ four-on-three power-play goal at 1:01 of overtime, ending the Penguins’ three-game winning streak.
Earlier in the day, Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins had allowed himself to think big about the matchup with the first-place team in the Eastern Division.
“To play against a team like this and beat them at the end of the night would be a nice step forward for our group,” he said.
It was not a step in any sort of good direction for the Penguins, who had leads of 2-0 and 3-2.
"I don’t think it was what they did; it was what we did," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said. "We didn’t do too much. It seemed like we had our moments, but for the most part, we weren’t desperate enough, and we kind of gave [the game] to them."
Nugent-Hopkins’ winner came on a power play that carried over from regulation, when Sutter took a slashing minor penalty.
The Oilers got their first goal, also from Nugent-Hopkins, on a power play that carried over to the third period after Penguins center Evgeni Malkin took roughing and interference penalties for knocking away the stick of Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk, then getting into a tussle with the goalie.
Bylsma also cited as undisciplined a penalty to Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for an illegal check to the head of Edmonton’s Mark Arcobello in the first period, although that one did not lead to an Oilers goal.
“A big part of the game was the penalties we took,” Bylsma said.
Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff made 27 saves but his seven-game winning streak was halted.
The Penguins had been 5-0-1 in their previous six games against the Oilers and had been 4-1-1 in their past six games in Edmonton.
Edmonton was the livelier team early on. The Oilers took a 7-2 lead in shots, but Zatkoff was sharp.
The rest of the Penguins were lackluster in the first period, but got a spark in the second period.
Malkin, after stealing the puck from Edmonton defenseman Jeff Petry, worked the puck behind the Oilers net, keeping control of it until James Neal got open along the bottom inner edge of the left circle. Malkin fed Neal, who lifted the puck over Dubnyk for a 1-0 Penguins lead at 2:09 of the second period.
Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead at 7:55 of the second period. He took a drop pass from Brian Gibbons and his shot from the right circle went in off the skate of Edmonton’s Sam Gagner and under Dubnyk’s pads as Chris Kunitz was driving to the net.
That extended Crosby’s points streak to seven games and pushed his goal total to 25.
It was also Crosby’s first career goal against Edmonton, in his sixth game.
There are now just three teams, all in the Western Conference, against whom Crosby has not scored. They are St. Louis, San Jose and Chicago.
With 1:04 left in the second period, Dubnyk stopped Malkin on a dazzling scoring attempt, with Malkin weaving his way to the net. That’s when Dubnyk lost his stick, and Malkin knocked it away before the two tangled briefly. Both got roughing minors, and Malkin also got an interference call.
Nugent-Hopkins scored through a crowd on a shot from near the right hash marks 53 seconds into the period , and the Oilers tied it, 2-2, at 10:07 of the third period. Deryk Engelland – a defenseman playing on the wing – couldn’t handle an outlet pass from Letang, and the Oilers went on the attack. Taylor Hall swept the puck past Zatkoff from just outside the crease.
The Penguins took a 3-2 lead at 12:16 of the third period when Letang scored off of a faceoff win by Crosby during a four-on-three power play.
Anton Belov tied it, 3-3, with 1:59 left in regulation with a high, hard shot for his first NHL goal.
“Being up two, we needed to find a way to close the game out,” Crosby said. “We know they’re going to come hard and give a big push in the third. To give up a two-goal lead, then get the lead again, and lose it again, you don’t deserve to win games when you play like that in the third.”
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.