WASHINGTON, D.C. - This loss hurt.
The Pens suffered a heartbreaker, surrendering the game-winning goal with just 1:14 left in regulation, in a 2-1 loss to their hated rival and defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals in Washington's Capital One Arena on Wednesday night.
But losing wasn't the reason this game hurt. Pittsburgh is currently mired in a five-game winless streak.
And losing in the final minute, though adding to the sting, also wasn't what made this setback so difficult to swallow.
The reason this loss hurt is because the Pens could have - no, should have - won.
"We did a lot of good things, we just have to be better," captain Sidney Crosby said. "You have to play 60 minutes. We did a lot of good things. We can build off of that, but we still have to find a way to get points or at least get one in this case."
However, despite their best efforts, they still came up with zero points in the standings thanks to T.J. Oshie's winning tally.
"It's more encouraging after the way we played tonight," said Crosby, who scored the Pens' loan goal on the power play. "But we still came out with nothing. That's still frustrating."
The Pens are now 0-4-1 in their last five games. But unlike some of the previous losses where they were outworked and sluggish, this time the Pens were dictating the terms of the game.
"I thought we were better in all areas," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we played with more urgency, won puck battles, stopped on pucks, got the puck to the net, went to the net. We were better in so many areas."
The Pens had one of the best - if not the best - efforts of the season. They limited the high-powered Capitals to just 22 shots on goal, which included a 10-minute stretch of zero shots against.
While Pittsburgh did surrender one power-play goal - the old Alex Ovechkin one-timer from the circle - it went five-for-six on the PK against the NHL's No. 1 ranked power play.
The Pens faced 12:19 minutes of shorthanded time, including 4:09 straight in the third period after Evgeni Malkin was assessed a five-minute major for an illegal check to the head to keep the game tied at 1-1.
"That was incredible," goaltender Casey DeSmith, who made the surprise start, said about the third-period kill. "Going against the No. 1 power play in the league and the amount of skill that they have on their unit, to shut them down and not give them much zone time at all."
The Pens generated a number of high quality scoring chances. Every line was contributing to scoring opportunities, generating 42 shots on goal. Perhaps, the only area they didn't execute was finishing on those chances.
"If we play like that we'll give ourselves a good chance to win every night," Crosby said. "That's the way we need to play. We were on our toes. We were physical. We generated some really good chances. We just have to put the puck in the net and we'll do that if we get those chances."
Pittsburgh showed the blueprint for success against Washington. Now they need to follow that script and the results will come.
"I thought our guys played extremely hard. They deserved a better fate tonight," Sullivan said. "Sometimes that happens. You play well and you don't get the result. We just have to build on it."