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Coming into tonights Metropolitan matchup, the Penguins were trailing the Islanders by just three points. A win gets them within one point of the Isles. A loss means they'll be five points out with New York having two games in hand.
The Pens walk away getting the raw end of that deal.
An Islanders goal with a handful of minutes left in the game gave New York the 2-1 lead. However, Pens defenseman Kris Letang was thrown to the ice by Islanders left winger Anders Lee as he also deflected a puck that would sneak past Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
No call was made on the play by either referee Kevin Pullock or Francis Charron. Letang was incensed about the play. Rightfully so.
Anders Lee should have been penalized for interference and the goal should not have counted as Lee clearly got the advantage on Letang by throwing him to the ice in front of the Penguins net.
The Penguins had ample opportunities to tie the game in the final 8:55. Specifically on a man advantage with four minutes remaining in the game when Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak got injured and had to leave the game. The Isles put a cold Thomas Greiss in net and the Pens went unsuccessful on the man advantage.
Even Phil Kessel couldn't take advantage of Greiss being caught completely out of position when a pass found him with hardly a soul to be seen. The Kessel shot found the leg of Travis Hamonic and went wide.
With that, the Penguins road to the playoffs gets that much harder.
13 of the remaining 16 games are against Metropolitan division teams or teams that the Penguins are battling for one of the two Wild Card playoff spots.
If the Penguins are going to have any hope of not just making the playoffs, but getting a remotely favorable playoff position like the third and final Metropolitan division playoff spot, they are going to be need to put together consistent performances.
Too many times this season Pittsburgh has turned around from great performances only to fall short in the following contest.
Most recently, the Pens responded to a 4-1 win at Consol Energy Center over the occupants of second place in the Metro division, the New York Rangers, on March 3rd by dropping it's following game 4-2 at home against a Calgary Flames, a team that lost seven straight games, just two days later.
To be considered contenders, or to just even qualify for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins are going to need to prove they can put together a string of consistent performances. Until they do, there is much to worry about in Antartica.