After starting the game in the best way possible - Sidney Crosby scoring a goal just 10 seconds in, the Pittsburgh Penguins poured it on the Ottawa Senators in the first period. Beau Bennett and Patric Hornqvist struck as well in the first to push the Pens ahead to a 3-0 lead.
However, being down was nothing new for Ottawa, who regrouped and went about their business for the rest of the game. They got on the board early with a short-handed goal when Gabriel Pageau threw a fairly innocent centering effort with no one around that clicked off Derrick Pouliot and into the net.
Mark Stone would score just 34 seconds into the 3rd to really give the comeback effort some life to make the game 3-2. From there Ottawa poured it on and finally tied the game with 1:48 left when Mike Hoffman wristed a shot from the blueline past Marc-Andre Fleury. The Pens took a penalty late, and never looked good in OT where Stone ended it.
- No way to sugarcoat blowing a 3-0 lead. The Pens have limped down the stretch with injuries and beatup lineups- which continued tonight with Pouliot not coming out of the locker-room for the 3rd period- but at some point the hope would have had to be to close out a big lead. Wouldn't happen tonight.
- Big picture though, which is hard to see in the emotion of a tough loss- the Pens still control their own destiny, so to say. 96 points and 2 games left. Their magic number is now 3- any combination of 3 points Pittsburgh wins or Ottawa fails to get and the Pens are in. Boston could be in play as well. Considering the Pens end the season with Buffalo, that has to be a win if they want to make the playoffs. Really, they probably need a good effort Friday versus a slumping NYI team that hasn't clinched a playoff spot either.
- Ben Lovejoy was awful in this game, screening Fleury on multiple times. Looking like a brutal scouting decision to bring him back, but then again, they didn't bring him back thinking he would be playing 24-27 minutes a night down the stretch.
- If the Pens blow the playoffs, the memory of Taylor Chorney stepping up into play and ringing a shot off the post in the 3rd period (with the score 3-2 Pens) will loom large. Can't really blame Chorney, who did what he could, but that's the breaks sometimes.
- Bad coaching decision: what was Brandon Sutter doing taking 2 straight d-zone draws when Ottawa pulled their goalie? Especially after losing the first one cleanly, you would think they wouldn't send him back out there to do the same. Alas, they did and he did.
- Sutter, by the way, only won 33% of his 15 faceoffs. Max Lapierre, who kept getting trot out for PK's (including in OT), only won 33% of his 9. Meanwhile, the infinitely more talented Crosby won 52% of his on the night. Even Evgeni Malkin, notoriously bad on faceoffs, won 60% of his 10. Why trust the less skilled players- who aren't even doing that good- when the game is on the line? Never makes sense.
- And it might not be coaching (though they do take the blame) but a sloppy change led to a 2-many men penalty with 29 seconds left in the 3rd period, just a moment after giving up a game-tying goal. That's inexcusable on so many levels.
- Pens outshot 21-3 from the 3rd period on. After blowing leads recently in every game they played, what is- or maybe more importantly isn't- being said during these intermissions? This game was a bit reminiscent of just Saturday, when the Pens were up 2-0 vs Columbus, let it slip to 2-2 at the break and then came out flat in the 3rd. Too many bad finishes of late.
Pens remain 1 point up on Ottawa and 1 up on Boston (with the Bruins having a game in hand) for the playoff push. But, as bad as it seems now, if the Pens win their next game then they will push into a tie with the Islanders for 3rd place in the division. There's a lot still left to play for, and the team isn't even playing all bad. It's tough to see now- and definitely not in a good place to feel good about what's ahead- but for the Pens it's simple. Close out a game or two, and they'll keep playing.