Sunday night saw the Penguins travel to Oil Country where they would take on the Edmonton Oilers in the third and final game of their trek into Western Canada. Riding a two game winning streak that saw them spoil the home openers of both the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames, the Pens were looking to improve their season to 3 and 0.
The Pens would strike first less than four minutes into the period when they would take advantage of a call against the Oilers for too many men. Chris Kunitz would set himself up in front of Edmonton net-minder Devan Dubynk, establishing a strong net front presence that would provide just enough distraction to allow Pens d-man Kris Letang to fire off a shot from the point. Letang’s shot would sail right over Dubynk’s shoulder and into the netting, giving Letang his first of the season and establishing a 1-0 lead in favour of Pittsburgh. The only other thing the Penguins would capitalize on throughout the remainder of the period would be their penalty kill, as they would play shorthanded four times with penalties going to Joe Vitale (holding), Ben Lovejoy (cross checking), Mark Letestu (cross checking), and Pascal Dupuis (holding) – the latter of two giving the Oilers a five-on-three opportunity they were unable to capitalize on. At the end of the first twenty, the Pens outshot the Oilers 13 to 9.
Both teams would be held scoreless throughout the second period, despite two power play opportunities for the Pens and a very strong turn around from the Oilers in the final three minutes of the first forty. Edmonton’s Taylor Hall would come just short of tying the game in the dying seconds of the period when he sniped a shot from the side of the net that was stopped by Pens net minder Brent Johnson. The Pens would continue to outshoot the Oilers, this time 9 to 8.
Onto the third where Oilers rookie and 2011 first round pick Ryan Nuggent-Hopkins would score his first NHL goal with just under five minutes left to play in regulation. Nuggent-Hopkins goal, however, would be followed by a five minute major and game misconduct given to Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth for an elbow to Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz. (While shaken up, Kunitz appeared to be alright, returning to finish off the period.) Despite the man advantage for the remainder of the period, a strong net-front presence and a barrage of shots, the Penguins would be unable to capitalize and for the second time in a season that is less than a week old, the game was headed into overtime.
After a high-flying five minute overtime period that saw a lot of back and forth action and a near goal courtesy of the Oilers (it hit the post despite the fact that the goal siren went off and the fans rose to their feet), neither team was able to capitalize. And, for the second time this season, the game was headed to a shootout. Up first for the Oilers was Jordan Eberle who would beat Johnson over the glove hand. Kris Letang followed suit but could not beat Dubynk. Hemsky would go on to beat Johnson while James Neal would go five-hole on Dubynk to keep the Pens alive. Linus Omark would miss the net giving the Pens another chance to redeem themselves. Unfortunately, Steve Sullivan would be unable to capitalize for the Pens and the Oilers would take their home opener with a score of 2 to 1.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 29:16 of ice time, followed by Jordan Staal with 23:49. Kris Letang also led all skaters with 6 shots on goal, followed by Tyler Kennedy with 5. Brent Johnson stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced while the Pens fired 34 shots at Dubynk.
The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin – a presence greatly missed on the power play. Malkin was a game time decision and was listed with a lower body injury. Head Coach Dan Bylsma said that Malkin’s injury was not related to his surgery but attributed it to bumps and bruises resulting from the first two games of the season.
The Penguins next game goes Tuesday at home where they will meet the Florida Panthers in the 2011-2012 home opener.