Home Pittsburgh Sports College Basketball Penguins comeback falls short in season-opening overtime loss to Blues

Penguins comeback falls short in season-opening overtime loss to Blues

Alex Pietrangelo scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to lift St. Louis over the Pens 5-4 in the season opener at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night.

It felt like much of the same at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh raised another Stanley Cup banner, the pregame party had an electric, amplified tone, and the Pens stayed on-time with another 3rd period comeback.

Just 1:15 into overtime, however, St. Louis’s Alex Pietrangelo changed things up, playing the villainous role of buzzkill, scoring his second goal of the game—a crease finish over a preoccupied Matt Murray—lifting his Blues to a 5-4 overtime win.

The loss marked the Pens’ first home opening setback since the 2015-16 season. 

“I think we played hard but I don’t think we always played smart,” said Coach Mike Sullivan.  “Our guys had energy and we had a great start and it was an exciting atmosphere.  We just have to get better with the end of the game.”

The Penguins, who posted 33 shots on goalie Jake Allen, drew first blood with a one-timing slapper from the stick of Justin Schultz just inside the blue line with just over six minutes left in the opening period.  St. Louis, who gathered 34 shots of their own, answered nearly two minutes later with a Brayden Schenn redirection past Murray.

“It’s tough to lose this.  It’s tough to lose all the time,” said Murray, who made the first non-Marc-Andre Fleury opening game start in goal for the Pens in five years.

Down 4-2, the Penguins caught their advantageous break, when with one minute into a 5-on-3 advantage—after Schenn threw the puck down ice like a discus to earn the delay of game penalty—they found the net with a jumping Sidney Crosby, who stuck the landing, then punched home a rebound finish on a wide-open net in the crease.

Just a 1:06 later, Conor Sheary—off a surgical set up from Greg McKegg—finished on the gloveside angle of goalie Jake Allen to knot things up at 4. 

The third line center McKegg polished off a solid first appearance in a Penguins uniform, hanging the one assist in 15:07 of ice time, while contributing mightily to the Pens’ 40-28 faceoff advantage, corralling 13 himself, finishing just two shy of Crosby.

“I thought he had a strong game.  He played real well,” said Sullivan of McKegg.  “He did a great job killing penalties.  He was strong in the faceoff circle, he gets the tying goal with a terrific pass.  He can skate, he has some offensive instincts and he’s got a pretty solid two-way game.  We were real pleased with how he played tonight.”

“I think just trying to get my timing back was a big thing,” said McKegg, who paired up with Carl Hagelin and Tom Kuhnhackl.  “With the different rule changes and things like that, I think it is going to be an adjustment, but timing is going to be the biggest thing right now.”

All-in-all, the Blues grabbed three separate leads in the game, with Olli Maatta answering the Pens’ second deficit, scoring on a blue-line slap shot that sailed past the top shelf of Allen’s glove, tying things at two midway through the 2nd period.

“We just stayed confident late in the game,” assessed McKegg.  “We had chances throughout the game, and we were pressuring them.  Finally, a couple of (goals) popped in for us, and we found our mojo from there.”

Another celebration

The Penguins entered familiar territory prior to Wednesday’s puck drop, hoisting its second straight Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.  Coaches and staff, as well as the players were individually announced, as the sellout crowd handing out ovations. 

Sidney Crosby brought the Cup to center ice prior to the team standing together on the blue line to watch the banner raise.

Tanger’s back

Defenseman Kris Letang, who hadn’t played a regular season hockey game since Feb. 21 of last year, put together a solid campaign Wednesday night, with ice time of 26:05, serving with Brian Dumoulin on the top defenseman line.

“I thought he had a good game.  He’s such a good player, and he made some great defensive plays for us,” Sullivan said of Letang.  “I thought, for the most part, he took what the game gave him.  He wasn’t trying to do too much out there.  Sometimes Tanger is always looking for that better play, but when he just makes the right play, he is at his very best.”

After the Moneyline

The Penguins came in as heavy -190 favorites, losing as the heavy chalk favorites.  The total, which was set at 5.5 goals clipped the over side, marking just the third time the Pens have gone over in their opener since 2007-08.

Up Next

The Penguins will have the displeasure of the early home/away turnaround, as they travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks Thursday.  Puck drops at United Center at 8:30 PM.

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