EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers didn’t follow the script the standings suggested they should have.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored two goals, including the winner, and added an assist as the Oilers came from behind to stun the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime on Friday.
The Oilers had a power play to start the overtime session and Jordan Eberle made a perfect pass to Nugent-Hopkins, who snapped the puck into a wide-open net 1:01 into extra time.
“That shows a lot of character for us, and just to show we can play this way, it was a big game for us,” said Nugent-Hopkins, whose Oilers team trailed 2-0 after 40 minutes. “There was no real deflation in the second intermission. When we get into trouble we kind of deflate and don’t bring that same effort and I thought we did a good job of not getting down on ourselves and we pushed back and we did a great job of sticking with it.”
Taylor Hall and Anton Belov also scored for the Oilers (15-27-5), who captured just their fourth win in the last 15 games.
Edmonton sits in second last place in the NHL.
“With our history this year, some nights we haven’t wanted to stick with the game plan and just breathe,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “Tonight we did that, we took a breath and understood what we needed to do and we stuck with it. It’s good when you get rewarded that way, because it backs up what we’re trying to promote. Beating a team like Pittsburgh, puts a little jump into our step.”
Hall said it was a good feeling in a season that hasn’t contained all that many of them.
“It was a fun effort all around, there was a good atmosphere in the arena tonight and we found a way to win,” he said. “We were down quite a few times in the game, but we came back, stuck to our guns, stuck to our game plan and it was good to see.”
James Neal, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang responded with goals for the Penguins (32-12-2), who had their three-game win streak halted.
It was just Pittsburgh’s third loss in its last 15 games.
“We just didn’t match their desperation,” Crosby said. “Being up by two goals, obviously we need to find a way to close that game out. We knew they were going to come out hard for the third and we still let them get even, then we took the lead and lost it again. You don’t deserve to win games when you do that.”
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said three penalties his team took, including Brandon Sutter’s slashing call that gave the Oilers the man advantage heading into overtime, were a major contributor to the loss.
“A big part of the game was the penalties we took,” he said. “We took a penalty on the power play two times and we took a penalty behind their net in the offensive zone at the end of the third that turns into the game-winning goal. We had three penalties that were undisciplined.”
The Oilers had the best chance in the early running as Ryan Smyth stole a puck deep in Pittsburgh territory minutes into the game and got in tight on Penguins starter Jeff Zatkoff, but his stick broke on the shot attempt.
Edmonton had 11 shots in a scoreless first period, while the Penguins put nine shots on Devan Dubnyk in the Oilers net.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead two minutes into the second period after a pair of costly giveaways in his own end by Edmonton defender Jeff Petry. The second mistake gave the puck to Evgeni Malkin behind the net and he fed it out front to Neal for his 17th goal of the season.
The Penguins went up by two goals eight minutes into the second as a Crosby pass attempt hit Oiler Sam Gagner and caromed through Dubnyk’s legs. It was Crosby’s first-ever goal against the Oilers and 25th of the season.
With a minute left in the second Dubnyk came up with a pair of huge saves on Malkin and Chris Kunitz on a Penguins power play. Malkin knocked Dubnyk’s goalie stick into the corner and the Oiler goalie took exception, as the two mixed it up before a crowd of players congregated.
Edmonton got on the board 53 seconds into the third period on an abbreviated power play with Malkin in the box as Eberle spotted Nugent-Hopkins creeping in from the point and the 2011 first overall draft pick made a perfect shot to beat Zatkoff.
The Oilers tied the game with just under 10 minutes to play in the third period as they got an odd-man rush on a Pittsburgh line change. A shot from Nugent-Hopkins deflected to Hall in the crease where he was able to hook it in for his 17th of the season.
Pittsburgh jumped back in front on a four-on-three advantage with just under eight minutes left as Crosby won a face-off and Letang caught Dubnyk going the other way on a shot from the top of the circle to make it 3-2.
Edmonton kept up the pressure, however, and was able to tie the game 3-3 with just 1:59 remaining as Belov scored his first career NHL goal with a point shot that went over Zatkoff’s shoulder.
The Penguins have a quick turnaround, taking on the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. The Oilers embark on a four-game trip, starting in Chicago on Sunday.
Notes: It was the second and final meeting between the two teams. The Penguins won the first game 3-2 in Pittsburgh in October…It was the Penguins first visit to Edmonton since Oct. 9, 2011. Sidney Crosby was hurt for that game, making Friday his first appearance in Edmonton since Jan. 14, 2010. The Oilers were one of just four teams he hadn’t scored against – a list now down to Chicago, San Jose and St. Louis…The Penguins have 13 players in double-digits in points this season…Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz has the best plus-minus in the league at +23. Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov is last at -24.