Patric Hornqvist scores in return, but Penguins lose in OT again
NEW YORK — One of the hallmarks of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season has been discipline. Entering Thursday, they had faced an average of 2.3 opposing power-play opportunities per game through 21 contests.
Yet, in their 22nd game, referees Jean Hebert and T.J. Luxmore, with assistance from linesmen Steve Barton and Scott Driscoll, deemed the Penguins guilty of enough malfeasance to put them on the penalty kill seven times.
The New York Islanders converted two of those chances into goals in a wild 4-3 overtime victory Thursday at Barclays Center.
In contrast, the Penguins were gifted three power-play chances, none of which resulted in a goal.
The Penguins clearly were not happy with the officials. Their protests, which included unrefined synonyms for fertilizer, confirmed that notion. Yet, they were restrained when asked about the challenge of defending so many opposing power-play chances.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “The referees are going to call the game the way they see it. We’ve got to live with it.”
The Penguins appeared to be living well early as forward Evgeni Malkin scored with a diving scramble near the cage on goaltender Thomas Greiss a mere 64 seconds into regulation.
The Islanders responded at 15:12 of the first when defenseman Scott Mayfield scored on a deflected wrister past goaltender Matt Murray’s blocker.
Forward Bryan Rust put the Penguins back in front 69 seconds into the second by taking an Islanders turnover and ripping a wrister from the left circle past Greiss’ glove on the far side.
The lopsided nature of the penalties began to take their toll at 8:35 of the second when Penguins forward Jake Guentzel was called for roughing Mayfield. He was given an ensuing unsportsmanlike-conduct minor for an unsolicited critique of the officials that partially was caught on a live microphone on the ice.
With the benefit of four minutes of power-play time, the Islanders scored at the 11:38 mark when forward Anthony Beauvillier cleaned up a rebound off blocked shot.
“I’ve got keep my cool,” said Guentzel, who was available to speak with media after the game to call out his gaffe. “I can’t give them a chance to get back into the game with four minutes (in penalties).
“Got to be smarter.”
Another power-play score by Islanders forward Brock Nelson at 15:08 gave New York a 3-2 lead late in regulation.
The Penguins appeared to be in position to get a fourth power-play chance late in the third after Islanders forward Anders Lee clobbered Penguins forward Brandon Tanev along the boards. But when officials declined to call a penalty on that hit, all heck broke loose as Zach Aston-Reese and Lee began to fight.
Despite punches being exchanged and Aston-Reese emerging with a cut on his face, both only received roughing minors. In the ensuing confusion to restore order, Penguins forward Jared McCann temporarily was ejected from the game. As McCann screamed a vulgarity at the officials and left the ice via the Zamboni gate to make the winding walk to the visiting dressing room in Barclays Center, where benches are not directly connected to the dressing rooms, it was determined McCann was not penalized and still eligible to play.
The game was held up several moments as Penguins defenseman Zach Trotman was sent to the dressing room to retrieve McCann, who already had removed some of his gear.
“The one ref told me to get off the ice,” McCann said. “I think they were confused on what the call was and definitely weren’t on the same page.”
After that inept display was sorted out, play resumed in a four-on-four sequence. The Penguins were able to force another tie when forward Patric Hornqvist beat Greiss on a goal-mouth scramble at the 19:30 mark.
In overtime, the Penguins, less than 48 hours removed from a 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders at PPG Paints Arena, took a conservative approach but still fell short as Nelson scored his second overtime goal in three days at 4:16.
Despite the imbalance in special teams play and the result, the Penguins professed satisfaction with how they performed.
“We played really well,” Murray said. “I thought we deserved better. If we don’t take (eight penalties leading to seven opposing power-play opportunities), if we don’t have to kill that many, we probably end up with a better result.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .