Calvin Pickard makes 40 saves as Edmonton Oilers shut out Penguins 4-0

Edmonton’s sixth straight win against the Penguins pushed them to 39-21-3, ten points behind a Vancouver Canucks squad sitting first in the Western Conference

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The Edmonton Oilers didn’t need Daylight Savings Time to lose any sleep.

That already happened with the two-game losing skid they brought into PPG Paints Arena on Sunday, before springing back ahead with a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Forty-save shutouts aside, it was the same end result they probably should have had against the equally hapless Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres on their previous two stops of a four-game Eastern Conference road trip. Instead, it drew to a close in a dissatisfying 2-1-1, compared to the 4-0 run they were on heading in.

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It couldn’t have started any better, either, winning their fifth-consecutive game with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, thanks to the very performance the Oilers will be looking to replicate come playoff time. Slow, controlled and defence heavy.

Instead, they followed that one up with back-to-back losses against teams that really should have no business beating them at this point. Especially not after having added a couple of pieces in former Anaheim Ducks centres Adam Henrique and Sam Carrick.

“It’s been a challenge the whole year, when you lose one to not let it snowball,” said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse, who scored twice in the third period in a span of 5:15. “For us to come out and grab it and put together four wins over the last six games in a pretty condensed schedule, it’s a good sign for our group.”

With just 20 games left on the schedule, the Oilers didn’t exactly have the luxury of time to get back on track.

So, cue the Penguins. The same team the Oilers handily dispatched by a 6-1 score exactly one week earlier at Rogers Place. Pittsburgh came in having lost not only five of their previous six, but also Jake Guentzel at the trade deadline.

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And now there are growing rumblings Sid ‘The Former Kid’ Crosby could one day make his exit from a Penguins club painfully in need of a youth movement and finding itself in clear and present danger of missing playoffs for the second time in a row, following a run of 16 consecutive post-seasons.

They fell to 28-27-8, and sit eight points out of a wild-card spot, while Edmonton’s sixth straight win against the Penguins (outscoring them 33-9) pushed them to 39-21-3, 10 points behind a Vancouver Canucks squad sitting first in the Western Conference.

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Connor McDavid (97) of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday, March 10, 2024, in Pittsburgh, Penn. Photo by Justin Berl /Getty Images

McDavid capitalized on a turnover by Penguins defenceman Kris Letang in Pittsburgh’s zone, skating in with a head of steam and wristing one past the blocker of Tristan Jarry to go ahead 1-0 on Edmonton’s first shot of the game just 68 seconds in.

The Oilers captain led the way with a goal and two assists for 103 points on the season — the seventh triple-digit performance of his career — after being held pointless the night earlier, ending a 13-game point streak (two goals, 27 assists).

“Obviously, we don’t love the two losses there,” McDavid said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey lately, it’s no excuse, obviously. But with six games in nine days with travel, coast to coast, it’s been a grind here.

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“So, we’ll take the two points here and five of eight on the road trip and we’ll take a little rest at home and get ready to go next week.”

Another turnover, this one in the Edmonton zone when Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard crosschecked new arrival Michael Bunting to the ice, led to a one-timer from the point by Mattias Ekholm that got past the glove of Jarry for a 2-0 lead at 8:53.

It was Ekholm’s first goal in 40 games, dating back to Dec. 6.

John Ludvig took some frustration out in the form of a series of quick left hands against Oilers forward Warren Foegele following a high stick on fellow Penguins defenceman Erik Karlsson midway through the second period.

Foegele could barely get in a couple of shots worth of retaliation before his first NHL fight was taken down to the ice.

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Warren Foegele (37) of the Edmonton Oilers fights with John Ludvig (7) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday, March 10, 2024, in Pittsburgh, Penn. Photo by Justin Berl /Getty Images

Oilers goalie Calvin Pickard was sidelined momentarily by the NHL’s concussion spotter after getting steamrolled by Bryan Rust in the dying minutes of the second.

It was a yard sale of gloves and goal stick as the Penguins forward drove to the net, unable to stop before colliding with a kneeling Pickard, who had no choice but to stand his ground and stop the puck.

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“It was a big game for us, obviously, coming off two losses, but it’s a team we’ve had success against,” said Pickard, who returned for the final frame to put the finishing touches on a shared shutout, stopping all 40 shots by Pittsburgh to improve to 4-1-1 all-time against the Penguins. He was spelled off by Stuart Skinner for 1:16. “We played well against them last Sunday and hit the ground running today, scored early and never really looked back.”

Unlike one day earlier, which saw Edmonton turn a 2-0 lead against the Sabres into just a single point in the standings in a 3-2 shootout loss, Nurse gave the Oilers some insurance not once, but twice Sunday, scoring on a pass to the slot by McDavid at 10:42 before sending a wrister past Jarry’s glove at 5:15.

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E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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