EDMONTON, AB - An entertaining contest, in which the Oilers battled back from down two, moved beyond overtime and into a shootout, where Phil Kessel scored the winner for the Penguins, lifting Pittsburgh to a 3-2 victory.
"We're happy to get a point, I guess, against a very good hockey team," said Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot. "That was a heck of a game, but anytime you leave points on the table this time of year it doesn't feel very good. We wanted the extra point tonight, but we'll take one after having to battle back after the first there."
The Penguins struck first at 5:42 of the opening frame. With Talbot down on the ice and struggling to regain his footing, Scott Wilson passed the puck to the side of the net where Nick Bonino deftly deposited it in the back of said net for his 13th goal of the season. Former Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz recorded the second assist on the goal.
Edmonton nearly netted the equalizer a few minutes later, but Benoit Pouliot's wraparound attempt deflected off the post.
The Oilers picked up the physicality the following shift with big winger Patrick Maroon throwing his body around. Maroon delivered a pair of big hits on Chad Ruhwedel and Chris Kunitz, in succession, drawing a cheerful response from the Rogers Place crowd.
A few minutes later, Milan Lucic slammed Carl Hagelin into the glass near the Penguins net, continuing the theme of amped up intensity.
Despite the pushback from the Oilers, the Penguins increased their lead late in the first.
The Oilers had a series of unfortunate events lead to the two-goal deficit when Talbot stopped an initial shot by Evgeni Malkin, but the puck trickled behind him and inched closer to the line. Connor McDavid flew in to stop the puck before it crossed, but his stick got caught in the netting. The Oilers captain was forced to kick the puck, in a last ditch effort to get it away from danger, but it then deflected off Talbot and rolled past the line.
"They got a mistake on my part that cost our team but we found a way to battle back and that's real positive," said McDavid.
Malkin received credit for the whacky goal, which put Pittsburgh up 2-0 at 17:25 of the opening frame.
At 4:55 of the second, Edmonton would close the gap - signaling the start of the comeback. Kris Russell fired a shot on net and Zack Kassian hacked at the puck. David Desharnais eventually poked it past Marc-Andre Fleury for his first goal as an Oiler. Desharnais was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, and has two points in three games for the orange and blue.
"It's always good to score a goal," said Desharnais. "We were trailing 2-0 and it got the team back in the game."
With renewed energy, the Oilers started to gain some momentum. The top line hemmed the Sidney Crosby line in their zone for a bit, eventually leading to a scramble at the net in which both McDavid and Maroon hacked away at the loose puck before a whistle blew the play dead.
As the Oilers top line crossed the blueline on their next shift, midway through the second, Maroon dropped the puck off for a trailing Russell. The defenceman stepped into a shot that was gloved down by Fleury.
Edmonton carried the pace for much of the second. At the end of the first, the shots were 14-8 for Pittsburgh. In the second, they were 15-6 for the Oilers.
"I think that second period was some of the best hockey we've played," said Talbot. "We were in their zone, we were cycling, getting pucks to the net, battling in front, we got a big goal from (Desharnais) there and we didn't give them a whole lot. Down the stretch there, after the first period, we really turned our game around and we needed to come back and get a big point tonight."
At 12:45 of the third period, McDavid tied the game on a power play. The Oilers kept hammering shots on net and finally beat Fleury with a shot from the circle. Lucic and Leon Draisaitl recorded the assists.
With 4:23 left in the game, Talbot stopped Kessel on a breakaway to keep the things even at two. Kessel would get his revenge in the skills competition.
The wildly entertaining contest could not be settled in 60 minutes and moved to overtime. In the extra five-minute period, there were several chances exchanged.
McDavid had Fleury one-on-one in overtime, but it was at the end of a long shift and he couldn't finish the opportunity. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had back-to-back chances of their own but couldn't connect with twine.
"It's not fun when they're coming at you," said Crosby. "We lost momentum there in the second half of the game, but (Fleury) made some big saves in the third and overtime."
With 2:29 left in overtime, Eberle got called for a tripping to give Pittsburgh a power play. Talbot kicked away a one-timer from Malkin midway through the man advantage.
The electric atmosphere of the game continued as Edmonton killed off the penalty and came back the other way. Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera was denied by Fleury with 5.8 seconds remaining to send the game to a shootout.
As the first shooter, Draisaitl tried to go five-hole on Fleury and was denied. Malkin went first for the Penguins and hit the post. Mark Letestu went next for the Oilers and his wrister was kicked aside by the Pittsburgh goaltender.
Then came Crosby, who sniped top left corner on Talbot to put all the pressure on Edmonton. McDavid came out to respond and made no mistake, beating Fleury with a rocket shot.
The narrative had all the makings of a big comeback win for the Oilers, but the rally would fall just short as Kessel utilized the crossbar, and the post, to seal the win for Pittsburgh.
"We're disappointed we didn't get the two points, but what happened tonight was I thought the game drew a little desperation out of our group," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
"We took it up a notch, there was intensity to our game and we didn't have that against Detroit, we didn't have that against New York and it's that time of year, so it's in us. The Penguins brought it out of us so now it's up to us to keep it."
Stealing a point from the defending Stanley Cup champions when you were down by two is no tough task, but it left the Oilers wanting more.
"It's a confidence boost, I guess, but we've got to find a way to get the full two points," said McDavid. "I had a good chance in overtime and a few guys had some good chances in overtime but we didn't bear down and finish it. It's frustrating just to get one, but at the same time we'll take it."
Edmonton next hosts the Montreal Canadiens Sunday at 5 PM MDT.