Penguins squander 4-1 lead, lose in overtime to Buffalo
This is how far and how fast the Pittsburgh Penguins have fallen.
Blowing a three-goal lead in the second half of the game and dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to the Buffalo Sabres constitutes progress because at least it got them one point in the standings.
Jack Eichel scored 45 seconds into overtime as the Penguins lost for the fourth time in a row and for the ninth time in their last 10 games Monday night at PPG Paints Arena. Seven of those losses came in regulation. The point gained by the overtime loss allowed the Penguins to tie New Jersey for the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re well aware of the position we’re in,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “None of us are happy with it. We’ve got a proud group. I do think we’re getting better in a lot of areas. We’re not getting the results, but we very well could have in a number of games, tonight being one of them.”
The Penguins did show improvement while taking a 4-1 lead in the first half of the game.
Most notably, they were able to use their speed in transition, which is an element their game largely lacked over the past three weeks.
On their first goal, Patric Hornqvist picked up a long rebound near his defensive blue line and hit Derick Brassard flying up the middle of the ice.
On their second goal, the Penguins turned a standard breakout into a three-on-two rush. Tanner Pearson got his first point with the Penguins when he fed Phil Kessel for the finish at the right post to make it 2-1.
By the time Jake Guentzel converted his own rebound on a two-man rush with Hornqvist and Pearson broke a 32-game personal goal drought five minutes into the second period by cashing in on the rebound of a Jack Johnson shot, the Penguins were up by three.
“I thought we definitely had the start we wanted,” Sullivan said. “I thought we had good legs, good energy.”
Trouble started for the Penguins when they failed to go up by four on a five-on-three power play in the middle of the second period. Carter Hutton made a brilliant pad save on a backdoor chance by Kessel to keep it at 4-1.
From there, the Penguins lacked the confidence or the competent execution required to hold the lead.
Zach Bogosian and Casey Nelson scored on shots through traffic from the right point as the Sabres moved within one goal by the end of the second period.
“They had two goals off of D-men that were going wide,” goalie Casey DeSmith said. “It’s one of those streaks where stuff like that seems to be happening. It’s like we’ve been saying all along. Just battle through it, I guess.”
The Penguins held on for dear life for the first half of the third period, then cracked when Casey Mittelstadt buried a shot under the crossbar from the left circle with less than nine minutes left in regulation.
Eichel’s winning goal came on a shot from the right wing that banked in off DeSmith’s right arm.
“When you have a lead like that halfway through the game, you can’t go into a we-have-to-protect-the-lead mode,” Johnson said. “I think you have to stay after it.”
One common thread ran through at least two of Buffalo’s goals, including Mittelstadt’s: The Penguins had a hard time getting pucks out of their own zone, especially along the boards.
“I thought we were putting the puck on the wall a little too much,” Sullivan said. “I thought we had opportunities to make plays that were there and we didn’t. That’s part of it. I think that comes with confidence.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at
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