Highlights: Sharks thoroughly outplayed in Pittsburgh
Thursday's loss in Pittsburgh was the Sharks’ first in regulation with Brent Burns in the lineup -- 13-1-1 (USA TODAY IMAGES)
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins scored four times in the first seven and a half minutes of the second period, and handed the Sharks a 5-1 defeat at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night.
San Jose’s six-game winning streak was snapped, while Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh won its fifth in a row.
Chris Kunitz had two goals and Sidney Crosby three assists to lead the Pens’ attack.
A series of poor decisions and mistakes with the puck were mostly to blame for the Penguins breaking the game open after the first intermission.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead just 27 seconds into the second period, when Crosby drove the puck deep into the zone and found Brooks Orpik at the point. Pascal Dupuis tipped in Orpik’s floater.
Two minutes later, Jason Demers was caught in no-man’s land in the neutral zone, leading to a two-on-one rush. Jayson Megna took the shot himself and beat Antti Niemi cleanly at 2:34.
Justin Braun turned the puck over the Sharks’ defensive zone leading to Pittsburgh’s third goal, as Kunitz put in a Crosby rebound at 5:27.
The Sharks fourth line pressured the Penguins shortly after that, but John McCarthy was called for tripping Olli Maatta in Marc-Andre Fleury’s goal crease. That led to Kunitz’s second of the night on the power play, and the rout was on.
Tomas Hertl got credit for his 14th marker midway through the second to give the Sharks some life, when the rookie’s centering pass to Brent Burns in front somehow deflected in. San Jose had its first power play soon after that, but Joe Pavelski’s backhand at an open net slid just wide to keep it a three-goal deficit.
Kris Letang’s soft wrist shot from the point made it 5-1 at 3:30 of the third period, as it found the back of the net past Alex Stalock through traffic. Letang had a breakaway later in the third, on a Demers turnover, but Stalock turned it aside with eight minutes left.
Of note was Pavelski’s apparent demotion to the fourth line, as he and Andrew Desjardins traded places for the final frame.
The loss was the Sharks’ first in regulation with Burns in the lineup (13-1-1).
San Jose is 1-1-0 on its four-game road trip, losing for the first time in regulation in Pittsburgh since Nov. 23, 2002.
The Sharks outshot the Penguins for the game, 45-30.
The Sharks were 0-for-3 on the power play, and are just 1-for-12 in their last three games.
Pittsburgh, which entered with the league’s best power play, was 1-for-2. McCarthy took both of San Jose’s minor penalties, while Matt Niskanen took two of the three for Pittsburgh.
Niemi, starting for the seventh straight game, allowed four goals on 27 shots and fell to 16-4-5.
Stalock came in to start the third period, perhaps to get some work before Friday’s game in Carolina. He had not played since Nov. 15 in Edmonton, and saw only three shots.
Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 16th win with 44 saves, including 22 in the second period.
Tyler Kennedy, who spent his first six seasons in a Penguins sweater, played his first career game against Pittsburgh. On his first shift, he drilled Brooks Orpik behind the Penguins’ net.
The Penguins were without star center Evgeni Malkin, who left the pregame morning skate early and was deemed as day-to-day with a lower body injury.
For the Sharks, Mike Brown, who scored a goal in Toronto on Tuesday, was a healthy scratch for McCarthy.
Crosby was playing in his 500th career game, while Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle played in his 900th game in the NHL.
The Sharks’ road trip continues in Carolina on Friday night, and concludes on Sunday in Minnesota. San Jose hosts the New York Islanders on Dec. 10.