The Pittsburgh Penguins' impressive start to the 2011-12 NHL season hit its first bump in the road on Sunday night, when they dropped their first points of the season in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers at the Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Evgeni Malkin was held out of the lineup with an apparently minor "lower body" injury suffered late in the Penguins' victory over Calgary on Saturday, taking away the team's most offensively dynamic talent. The Oilers, on the other hand, had plenty of young talent on display, highlighted by Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall picks in the last two NHL drafts.
And it would be through their efforts that the hosts would earn their first points of the season.
With 5:05 remaining, the Oilers finally found a chink in the armor of Brent Johnson, who started in place of Marc-Andre Fleury, when Nugent-Hopkins backhanded a centering pass from Hall home, leveling the scores at 1-1.
Less than a minute later, the Penguins would be gifted a major penalty when Ryan Smyth caught Chris Kunitz with an elbow to the face, thrown in a preemptive strike against the oncoming Kunitz. Blood was drawn, Smyth was shown the gate, and the Penguins were given a golden opportunity.
Despite a handful of chances for the visitors on the man advantage, Devan Dubnyk, who made 33 saves on 34 shots, held firm, and the game eventually went to a shootout.
In the shootout, the Oilers got on the right foot quickly, beating Brent Johnson on their first two shots. James Neal pulled one back for the Penguins, but Dubnyk's save on Steve Sullivan sealed the deal.
Despite the loss, Johnson was impressive in net for the Penguins, making 34 saves on 35 shots while looking assured and precise in his movements.
The Penguins will now head back to Pittsburgh after securing five of six points on their Western Canada road trip, and will face the Florida Panthers in their home opener at the Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.