The Pittsburgh Penguins had a chance to lock up their ninth straight playoff berth Tuesday night in Ottawa. It was game that should have had little to no importance, but a three game losing streak and a 7-6-2 March left the Penguins needing a regulation win against a surging Senators team.
Things started out well.
Sidney Crosby scores ten minutes in. Then Beau Bennett and Patric Hornqvist added goals of their own to go up 3-0 as the first period ended.
No lead has been safe for this Penguins team. 2-0 is said to be the worst lead in hockey, but Pittsburgh might make the case that the 3-0 lead is the worst.
The Senators getting a shorthanded goal directed off the skate of Derrick Pouliot gave Ottawa life. It should have been the Penguins chance to make it 4-0 and kill any life the Senators had left. Mark Stone tacks on a goal in the early third period and then Hoffman's goal with 1:48 left in the game with the extra attacker tied it, and with that, Pittsburgh's chance to clinch was gone. Stone struck again in overtime to give Ottawa two big points and left the Penguins and their fans stunned.
Now, the Penguins still control their own fate, but the slide feels like a never-ending free fall as they have two remaining games, a home game vs. the Islanders and a Saturday road game in Buffalo. Based on how this team has played lately, those two games hold no guarantee for points.
The Eastern Conference has been pretty tight since March began. Only four playoff spots have been locked up as of April 7th.
The Islanders, Red Wings, Penguins, Bruins and Senators are all within three points of the final playoff spot. All but the Bruins have two games left. Boston has three.
The standings as of Wednesday, April 8th:
Here's what each team has left