Recent history repeated at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins failed to generate the tying goal in the third period and suffered their third straight regulation loss, 3-2 to the Los Angeles Kings.
Each of those defeats has been by a single goal, but the Penguins (46-22-5, 97 points) may have reached a new frontier against the Kings. Brandon Sutter appeared to jam in the equalizer during a power play midway through the third, but he was ruled to have shoved Los Angeles goalie Martin Jones into the net before the puck trickled in.
James Neal and Sidney Crosby missed golden chances moments after the controversial ruling, and the Penguins didn’t get another great look until the final seconds, when the puck refused to settle for Crosby at the side of the net.
While the score was identical to Tuesday’s home loss to Phoenix, the Penguins were much more effective in all situations. They outshot the usually-stingy Kings 37-32 and held a similar edge in total shot attempts.
The Pens also drew several Los Angeles penalties, but their league-leading power play went goalless in seven opportunities. For the second straight game, the Pittsburgh penalty kill was victimized once officially and a second time just as the penalized player returned to the ice.
But it was blueliner Drew Doughty‘s even-strength blast four minutes into the third that gave the Kings (43-25-6, 92 points) enough to collect their latest road win. Doughty took a feed from Dustin Brown and hammered a slap shot through a screen and past Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who stopped 29 shots against the team that drafted him.
Los Angeles led 1-0 after one period on Jeff Carter‘s 26th goal, a deflection of Marian Gaborik‘s wrister during the Kings’ first of three power plays. Defenseman Alec Martinez doubled the advantage 6:59 into the second with a point shot through traffic that ticked off Brooks Orpik‘s stick.
Pittsburgh injected some much-needed energy into the building 34 seconds later when Chris Kunitz connected for his 33rd goal to complete a rush by the top line. Crosby earned an assist by firing a quick shot from a sharp angle, and Jayson Megna helped jam the puck over to Kunitz, who had a mostly-open net to shoot at from close range.
Lumbering Penguins winger Taylor Pyatt improbably scored for the second straight game at 15:42 of the second, as his harmless-looking wrister from the right wing hopped off Jones’ shoulder and into the goal.
Pittsburgh appeared poised to take its first lead moments later when it got another power play, but Jones made amends for his earlier gaffe by robbing Matt Niskanen of a sure goal off a sweet cross-rink pass from Crosby. It was the finest of Jones’ 35 saves and probably the play of the game.
The Penguins will try to keep their losing streak from reaching a season-long four games when they battle the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday.
Notes: Marcel Goc left the game in the second period after awkwardly crashing into the end boards. He appeared to jam his right ankle into the dasher…Evgeni Malkin missed his second straight game with a hairline fracture in his foot…Pittsburgh missed out on another chance to clinch its eighth straight playoff berth.