This picture explains it all: so close, yet to far.
Perhaps this game was doomed from its thirty minute delayed start, thanks in part to one of the two zambonis at Mellon Arena rupturing a gasket and spewing enough red hydraulic fuel across the ice to contest any slasher film. Like Sharks to blood, San Jose would flock to ice looking to keep their playoff hopes alive while also attempting to disrupt the Pens' own.
Too bad the first two periods ended in a scoreless stalemate.
It wasn't until three minutes into the third, 43 minutes and 10 seconds into the game to be exact, that either team netted the first goal on the day. Unfortunately for the Penguins, that team was the San Jose Sharks, led by the recently surged Jonathan Cheechoo.
The Penguins would continue to fight off the onslaught thanks to the pads and mitts of Ty Conklin. But it would ultimately come down to the Pens' offense to even up the match before the end of regulation. Lucky for the Pens, Erik Christensen, fresh off the day-to-day list, stepped up on the power play ten minutes into the third to tie the score at one.
Regulation failed to provide a winner, and so the two teams headed into overtime. When the final horn sounded at the end of OT, Evgeni Malkin skated away pointless for the second straight game. Prior to this weekend Malkin had managed at least one point in the previous ten contests. In turn, the scoring race between fellow Russian and olympic roommate Alexander Ovechkin is bound to heat up.
The shootout proved to provide more action and more goals than the entire game put together. Pittsburgh's Christensen started the shootout with a goal, but San Jose's Joe Pavelski answered back on the ensuing shot. December hero and early season call-up Kris Letang stepped up to shoot next and was denied by the Sharks' Evgeni Nabakov. From there both teams remained perfect. The final shot came down to the stick of NHL veteran Jeremy Roenick, who for all intensive purposes had retirement in mind come the start of the season. Roenick's sootout goal sealed the win for the Sharks, awarded the Pens with yet another one point overtime loss and allowed the New Jersey Devils to surpass the Penguins in the Eastern Conference standings.
The next meeting for the Pens is scheduled for Tuesday night against the Islanders. No word just yet on the much anticipated return of Sidney Crosby, although many reports have mentioned his failure to practice on the ice in two straight days late last week. Progress seemed to be on the up-swing, although it would now appear the initially speculated March 15 return may seem like the best possible outcome. Marc-Andre Fleury, coming off a rehabilitation stint in Wilkes-Barre, was recalled back to the parent club and may see his first start since December over the next week.