The Pens let an opportunity slip away to advance to their second straight Stanley Cup Final after losing Game 6 to the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, on Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
The second period was pivotal for the Pens. They orchestrated one of their most dominant 20 minutes of play this postseason, but only managed a 1-1 split on the scoreboard.
"We generated some good chances. You've got to convert on those," captain Sidney Crosby said. "We did a lot of good things. The chances were there. You've got to put them in."
The failure to convert more in that middle period would come back to haunt the Pens as now a winner-takes-all Game 7 awaits both teams Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
"We have to regroup, but we did a lot of good things," Crosby said. "We deserved better tonight.
"If we bring that same effort for Game 7 we'll give ourselves a chance."
The Pens outshot the Sens, 23-10, in that middle frame. In fact, the 23 shots by Pittsburgh set a franchise record for the most in a single period of a playoff game.
The Pens also dominated possession time, evidenced by the shot differential, but managed only one goal - a brilliant display of hands and skill by Evgeni Malkin that gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
The biggest reason for the Pens' failure to score was the spectacular play of Sens netminder Craig Anderson - who redeemed himself from allowing four goals in one period in Game 5 and getting pulled twice. Anderson stopped 22 of the 23 shots in that second frame, and 45 of 46 overall in the contest.
"You stop 45 shots, that's a great game from him," Malkin said. "One goal is not enough for us. We need to score more."
Pittsburgh did have one goal overturned due to goaltender interference on a play where Trevor Daley pushed Anderson into the goal before scoring.
"I didn't get an explanation," head coach Mike Sullivan said of the waved off goal. "I didn't really ask because it doesn't matter."
What also hurt the Pens' effort was back-to-back penalties on Ron Hainsey and Ian Cole, giving the Sens a two-man advantage late in the second period. Bobby Ryan would tally to even the game at 1-1, which was the first power-play goal of the entire series for Ottawa.
Despite that setback, the Pens kept the pressure on and even had a lengthy shift in the final 40 seconds of the period. Despite the numerous shots and chances they failed to score, again.
The game was 0-0 after the first period. The score was 1-1 after Pittsburgh's dominant second period. Then the Sens came out in the third period with the desperation of a team facing elimination. Mike Hoffman's goal 1:34 into the final period would be the difference.
But it didn't have to be this way. The Pens had a chance to run away with this game in the second period. They failed to convert on their many opportunities.
And now they'll have to play another do-or-die Game 7.
"There was a lot of this game to like. Obviously we were disappointed in the result," Sullivan said. "I don't think we can get discouraged by that. We can take the positives from it and we've got to build on it.
"We just have to become a more determined team for Game 7."