Penguins captain Sidney Crosby gets tripped as he goes for the puck against the Flames in the third period.
Flames' Mark Giordano ties up Penguins' Evgeni Malkin in the first period.
Penguins' Trevor Daley tries to stop the puck against Flames' Brandon Bollig in the second period.
Penguins' Evgeni Malkin crashes into the net behind Flames goaltender Joni Ortio in the third period.
Flames' Mikael Backlund celebrates his goal against the Penguins in the second period.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Calgary Flames had lost seven games in a row when the puck dropped Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
For many reasons, it seemed an eighth was likely and a win was teed up for the Penguins.
The Penguins twice squandered the lead and lost, 4-2, to the last-place Flames, gifting goalie Joni Ortio his first win of the season in a loss that could come back to haunt them in April.
“I think we just didn’t play our best. It’s unforgivable. We shouldn’t have these games at the point we are right now,” defenseman Olli Maatta said. “It kind of feels like we gave one away. It’s a terrible feeling.”
As the team hurried out of a quiet dressing room to catch a flight to New Jersey for a 5 p.m. game today in the Metropolitan Division, many spoke of not “showing up” against the Flames, a once-familiar problem that had seemed to be buried.
The Penguins were outshot in the first two periods, 22-14, and managed just 14 shots through two periods against Ortio, who was in the minor leagues a month ago. They went 0 for 2 on the power play.
“I think we had opportunities to shoot the puck and we chose not to,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought in the first period we had a lot of zone time. We had opportunities to get pucks to the net. I think we were looking for a better play, and as a result, we didn’t get enough pucks there. ... We can’t look for a better play sometimes. We’ve just got to shoot the puck. Nothing breaks down coverage better than a shot on goal sometimes.”
Sidney Crosby scored the Penguins’ first goal only 30 seconds in, banking a shot off the end boards that caromed to the goal mouth and off the back skate of Ortio as Patric Hornqvist crashed the net.
The lead was short-lived as Flames winger Joe Colborne re-directed a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury 88 seconds later from the back door.
The same sequence reoccurred in the second period.
Crosby tipped in a shot by Hornqvist to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead at 5:24, but the Flames tied it 89 seconds later when Mark Giordano capitalized on a turnover at the blue line and fired a shot past Fleury at 6:53.
“The first goal, we win the faceoff and lose possession. They get a little puck luck off the side of the net, but that’s what happens,” Sullivan said. “That’s why you shoot the puck and that’s why you go to the net. When you do that, good things happen.”
The Penguins killed a double-minor assessed to Tom Kuhnhackl for high-sticking in the second period, but surrendered a goal just seconds later.
Mikael Backlund redirected a shot at 15:46 to give the Flames their decisive 3-2 lead. Lance Bouma then scored the Flames’ fourth goal at 14:03 of the third.
“Everybody is frustrated in this room right now. We have to make sure we show up and play the right way,” said Hornqvist, who said he had no good explanation for why they squandered the lead twice. “We’ve been talking on this a lot lately. We’re never going to win any games, any series, that way. It can happen once in a while. But it can’t happen consistently.”
The Flames have given up 205 goals this season, the most in the NHL, and had been on the road for a week.
The Penguins were coming off a big win Thursday night against the New York Rangers and now peer down a gauntlet of division games that will make or break their season.
Did the Penguins simply overlook the Flames?
“I think that’s a possibility,” Maatta said. “I think last game we played great hockey. The last little while, we’ve been playing great hockey. You know, you shouldn’t have games like this when we’re working so hard. Now it feels like we gave one away, and that’s something that shouldn’t happen at this point.”
The loss still leaves the Penguins (33-23-8) in the playoff picture with the second wild-card spot.
“We had some opportunities to get some points, get some momentum, especially after we played the Ranger game,” Crosby said. “That was a great game and wanted to build off that. Didn’t do enough to earn a win [Saturday].”
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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