Jordan Staal’s forehand wrister with 18.4 seconds left in overtime sent the Kings to a 2-1 loss against a depleted Penguins squad.
After Los Angeles native Brett Sterling got the Pens on the board early, Jarret Stoll capitalized on a Penguins turnover to tie the game at 1 at 17:17 of the first period. Nobody scored again in a tight defensive battle until Staal’s game-winner. Jonathan Quick made 24 saves, and counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury had 32 for the Penguins.
When Quick and Fleury weren’t trading saves – mostly of the routine variety – they got help from their defense. The Kings (18) and Penguins (21) combined for 39 blocked shots, including seven alone by Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek. It was the type of game Pittsburgh needed without injured forwards Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (knee) and Chris Kunitz (lower body).
It was the type of game the Kings needed, too, given the depth of their recent offensive struggles. In the end, it could have gone either way. This time it went the Penguins’ way.
Optimistically, the Kings added to their point total for the seventh straight game. Pessimistically, even the latest forward permutations couldn’t find the second goal it needed to beat a weakened offensive team.
A few more notes:
Rob Scuderi, a member of the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup championship squad, was given a nice ovation and a video tribute at Consol Energy Center. He led the Kings with four blocked shots, including one in the final seconds of the third period to deny a wraparound attempt by Staal.
Alexei Ponikarovsky was active in a game that saw him start on the fourth line, and alternate between the third and the first lines in the final period. He didn’t play in overtime, but seems to be earning confidence from Terry Murray based on the quality of his 9:38 TOI. No video tribute for the former Penguin, though.
Kevin Westgarth re-entered the lineup and wasn’t much of a factor outside his second-period fight with Deryk Engelland. And by not much of a factor, we’re looking at five shifts, no shots, 2:21 time on ice. Wayne Simmonds dropped gloves with Ryan Craig in another second-period bout.
Sterling is a 26-year-old forward who honed his craft in Pasadena, Colorado College, and the AHL’s Chicago Wolves aside from two cups of coffee with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007-08 and 2008-09. This was his first NHL game since that season – in fact, he was a late game-day recall who wasn’t even included in the official game notes. The goal was the third of his NHL career.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won his 100th career game.