The Edmonton Oilers tried hard to pull out a memorable comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, but they simply had too far a climb.
Labouring through a tiring seven-game road trip, the Oilers nearly rallied from a five-goal deficit before dropping a 5-4 decision to the Penguins at Mellon Arena.
Miroslav Satan and Petr Sykora notched two goals apiece, and Evgeni Malkin added three assists for Pittsburgh.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves, while star centre Sidney Crosby chipped in with a helper.
"Halfway through the game, we were playing great," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We lost our momentum. We lost our focus. If we lose our focus, good things aren't going to happen to us."
The well-rested Penguins (7-4-2), who last played on Saturday in St. Louis, earned their second straight victory.
"We got overconfident, really, and not playing the right way," said Crosby. "We started to cheat a bit, we got a couple of bad bounces and then they're right back in it."
The Oilers (6-6-1) have lost seven of their last nine games, including a tough 5-4 defeat in Columbus on Wednesday.
Fernando Pisani, Tom Gilbert, Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray scored for Edmonton, which was playing in Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly three years.
Goaltender Mathieu Garon was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 20 shots.
"With the way it is now, you can just never quit on the game," Souray said. "We were positive and we had a feeling we could come back. It's always easier to say than do, but we had some good efforts in the third. Just a little too little, too late."
Edmonton's first and only meeting of the season with Pittsburgh began with a Penguins scoring barrage.
The Penguins' consistent pressure led to the game's first goal at 9:14 of the opening period. After failing on his first attempt, Satan grabbed the puck off the boards and scored by using a clever shot between his legs.
Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the first following some great work by Crosby.
With the Penguins short-handed, Crosby chipped the puck by Gilbert along the boards to create a two-on-one break. Garon stopped Crosby's shot, but Maxime Talbot was there to swipe in the rebound.
Satan's second goal of the game on a delayed Edmonton penalty gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead 7:05 into the middle frame when he redirected a point shot by Malkin.
Sykora's two goals in 1:39 then put Pittsburgh ahead by a seemingly comfortable 5-0 cushion. His second goal chased Garon out of the game as Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish replaced him with backup Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers.
"You have to be happy with two points, but not with the way we played," Sykora said. "We have to sit down and talk about the way we played because that's not going to work for us."
Refusing to go quietly, the Oilers staged a rally to keep the Pittsburgh fans from leaving the arena early.
Pisani's tally late in the second began an Edmonton flurry that carried into the final period. Edmonton scored two goals in 28 seconds to cut the Penguins advantage to only 5-3.
Gilbert brought Edmonton to within three before Hemsky stole the puck from Pittsburgh defenceman Rob Scuderi and slid a shot to the far side of Fleury at 3:25.
Hemsky's fourth goal of the season extended his point streak to five games.
The remarkable turn of events continued for the Oilers.
While Edmonton was killing off a five-minute penalty, Souray jumped out of the box on a breakaway and sailed a backhand shot over the glove of Fleury for a short-handed goal at 8:59.
The Oilers pulled Drouin-Deslauriers in favour of a sixth attacker but couldn't get the equalizer behind Fleury.
"It's tough losing two games in a row by a goal. You look back at plays that could have made a difference," Gilbert said.
Drouin-Deslauriers was outstanding in the loss for the Oilers, stopping all 14 shots he faced.
Edmonton will close out its longest road trip of the season with games on consecutive nights beginning Sunday in New Jersey.