Penguins overcome mid-game malaise, stop Oilers, 6-4
A strong start was the focal point Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers. Nobody talked much about the second period or the third.
The Penguins started strong, took a nap for 30 minutes or so, then bounced back to pull out a 6-4 victory at Consol Energy Center.
“Our start was very good, then we got sloppy,” coach Mike Johnston said. “We took our foot off the gas. We got casual with our game.”
The Penguins led 4-0 after Sidney Crosby's power-play goal before Edmonton scored four times to tie it.
Whether the Penguins tried too hard to get Brandon Sutter his first career hat trick or assumed beating the lowly Oilers was a given could not be determined.
What was much more obvious was the Penguins struggled — a lot.
“We stopped moving our feet,” forward Steve Downie said. “We got a little comfortable out there.
“Sure enough, it cost us. Lucky we dug ourselves out of that one.”
The Penguins escaped, courtesy of Downie's rebound goal at 14:38 of the third. Patric Hornqvist added his fourth in as many games for some much-needed insurance.
The win gives the Penguins (39-18-10) 88 points. They're two shy of the Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand.
They trail the first-place Rangers by three points, although New York has played one fewer game.
That may not matter, though, if the Penguins can't eradicate whatever it was that crept into their game for about 30 minutes in the second and start of the third periods.
Carelessness with the puck. Own-zone mishaps. Nothing visually appealing whatsoever.
“We started cheating and doing things that were uncharacteristic of us,” Sutter said. “We have to learn from it.”
Ben Lovejoy made it no secret the Penguins took the Oilers, losers of six straight and eight of nine, too lightly for that 30-minute stretch.
“We thought we could float through the rest of the game, put up big points and discard the Edmonton Oilers,” Lovejoy said. “They're still an NHL team. They capitalized on a few mistakes. We can't do that against most teams. We were able to turn it back on, but that's a very difficult thing to do in the NHL.”
A big reason was Crosby, who scored three points. Johnston called Crosby the team's best two-way forward Thursday, but that likely didn't make sleeping last night any easier for Crosby. Not after a rather tough learning process — one Crosby hopes will pay off for this club.
“You learn based on getting a couple points and sticking with it,” Crosby said. “You have to understand that you can't let that happen in a playoff series. That could change the momentum of a series.”
Notes: Penguins forward Craig Adams was a healthy scratch for the sixth time in the past eight contests. … Malkin assisted on Crosby's goal for his 700th NHL point. Only Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Crosby are ahead of him in franchise history. … Crosby finished with 10 attempted shots.