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Ranking the most memorable ends to Penguins losing streaks

Consider it an exercise in manifestation.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Seattle Kraken
Casey DeSmith and Sidney Crosby react after giving up a goal to the Kraken in Seattle on October 29.
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

In light of the Penguins 0-6-1 record since October 24, let’s take a look at some of the most triumphant ends to winless streaks within the past two decades of Pittsburgh history.

Maybe it will help us manifest the next one happening when the Penguins battle the Capitals on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

#3: Ruining the Rangers’ day (2003)

Nine lost games (2/23-3/09); 16 winless games (2/23-3/23)

Thanks to the era of the tie, the Penguins’ struggles late in the 2003 season will go down in history as a nine-game losing streak— although a 0-14-2 record meant they hadn’t claimed victory in over a month.

On March 26 at Madison Square Garden, it was clear the tanking Penguins were going to miss the postseason. There was only one thing left to do: drag the Rangers down with them.

Even without injured top scorer Mario Lemieux, the Penguins found enough firepower from Martin Straka and Tomas Surovy on the power play, and Eric Merloche at even strength, to ruin the Rangers’ playoff hopes with just five games remaining in their season.

From the Associated Press:

Even without Mario Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguins had enough to cripple the New York Rangers’ playoff hopes.

New York desperately needed a win to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

“Time isn’t on our side,” New York center Eric Lindros said. “Every game is important and we blew it.”

Martin Straka kneels on the ice
Martin Straka skates for the Penguins in 2003.

#2: Making NHL history (2004)

13 lost games (1/13-2/14), 18 winless (1/13-2/22)

On February 25, 2004, the Penguins were facing a 3-1 deficit to the Phoenix Coyotes.

That wouldn’t have seemed like such a big deal— if it weren’t for the fact that the Penguins had not won a game for a month and a half and were getting outscored by opponents 83-40 on their way to the longest winless streak in NHL history (since tied by the 2021 Buffalo Sabres.)

Then Aleksey Morozov tied up the game with just 26 seconds left in the second frame.

Andy Chiodo, in his third of eight NHL appearances, made 28 saves to keep the Penguins afloat until Ric Jackman ended the longest losing streak in franchise history in overtime.

The Penguins piled onto the ice to celebrate the 4-3 overtime victory in what might have been one of the most emotional celebrations in franchise history.

“We can all breathe now. We can smile. We don’t have to worry about anything.” —Ryan Malone, who scored a second-period goal for the Penguins in the 4-3 overtime win, to the Washington Post

#1: Saying goodbye to Mario Lemieux (2006)

10 lost games (1/6-1/23)

What’s worse than a 10-game losing streak?

The 2005-06 Penguins have the answer: a 10-game losing streak during which Mario Lemieux announces his final retirement.

Smarting from regulation home-and-away losses to Philadelphia, the Lemieux-less Penguins returned to Mellon Arena to face the Washington Capitals, led by Calder Trophy-winning rookie Alex Ovechkin, on January 25.

The Capitals had won four of their last five games, and averaged four goals per contest while doing so. That was a concern for a Penguins team getting outscored 2:1 for the past three weeks.

Those concerns turned out to be unfounded. The Penguins faced a 1-1 second-period tie, and responded with seven unanswered goals.

Mark Recchi and John LeClair tallied twice, while Tomas Surovy, Sidney Crosby, Eric Boguniecki and Ryan Malone finished out an 8-1 rout of the Caps. It would stand as their highest-scoring outing of the season.

That night, a young Marc-Andre Fleury posted the first win of his NHL career. And rookie Crosby (1-3—4) was named first star of the game— and the unofficial heir of the suddenly-arrived next era.

Want to relive the shock of the Lemieux retirement, and the glory of the 8-1 win? The whole contest is available here.