The Oilers drop the first of back-to-back games this weekend in a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday at Rogers Place
EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers dropped to their second-straight defeat on Friday in the first of back-to-back games to end their home schedule before the Christmas break, losing 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rogers Place.
Former Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry made 26 saves on 28 shots for the Penguins, winning his 10th game in 12 starts to help lift Pittsburgh to their fourth-straight win. Mike Smith allowed four goals on 25 shots in the Oilers crease.
"As the season goes, there are different things that keep you above board," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "Over the last couple of weeks, our 5-on-5 scoring has been minimal. Couple that with some of the mistakes we're making and goaltending being not quite as strong as it was early in the year, you're chasing games."
Chad Ruhwedel's wrist shot from the point snuck through Smith and just trickled over the line eight minutes into the game as the first early bit of fortune for the Penguins.
Five minutes later, on the conclusion of a hooking infraction, Joseph Blandisi found himself on a breakaway that the forward tucked backhand under Smith to double Pittsburgh's lead.
"I liked a lot of our game, honestly," Connor McDavid said post-game. "We played well. They're a team that defends well and we were able to generate a couple of chances, but just two mistakes end up in the back of your net, then you're chasing the game," Connor McDavid said post-game.
It was a common theme for the Oilers at the intermission, trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes for the fourth-consecutive game at home.
"Obviously we've been putting ourselves in tough situations," Kassian said. "Coming back on teams, they lock it down pretty good, and in order to get chances you have to work hard. When you work hard, you have to cheat a little bit to get back into the game."
"We're finding out the hard way it's a tough league to win in when you do so."
Synonymous with those defeats have been fightbacks from the Oilers, and Kassian looked to set the Oilers on the right path towards another with a deft deflection that went down as the 28-year-old's 13th of the campaign.
Even after Jared McCann restored the two-goal lead on another breakaway, it was the Oilers third-ranked penalty kill in NHL that would bail out its offence with a deserved shorthanded tally from Riley Sheahan that ended the Oilers being the only club in the League without a shorthanded goal this season.
But the Penguins cancelled out that Sheahan marker with their remaining power-play time 37 seconds from the onset of the third when defenceman Kris Letang wired an unstoppable one-timer from Evgeni Malkin glove side.
"At important times in games, we're either making too many mistakes and they can't get covered up, or for myself I can't get a save at the right time of the game," Smith said. "You make one of those breakaway saves and it's probably a different game."
Interfering with the goaltender nullified a McDavid goal that pulled the Oilers within one with 3:37 on the clock before tensions boiled over in the final minutes after Brandon Tanev's empty-netter when Smith took exception to Malkin driving into the crease.
After finding ways to string together win streaks and break losing skids with ease earlier in the year, the Oilers have now lost six of their last seven games.
"We were able to nip it early in the year," McDavid said. "When we'd have a loss or two, we'd get back in the win column. Overall the month hasn't been great, so we need to find a way to get two big wins here before the break and regroup."
The Oilers drop to 19-15-4 ahead of Saturday's visit from the Montreal Canadiens.
"The good thing about this league is you play a lot of hockey," Kassian said. "We have a back-to-back against a good team tomorrow. I think everyone should be upset and we come in with a chance to redeem ourselves tomorrow."