SAN JOSE, Calif. – It happens this way and that way, but it always happens.
At least, in the hockey lifetimes of the Penguins, road games against the San Jose Sharks end in Penguins losses.
Thursday night, the Penguins blew a two-goal lead and fell, 5-3, against the Sharks at SAP Center.
SportsNOW: Focus is on Penguins, Steelers and Pitt
The PG's Dan Gigler and Jerry Micco talk about hot topics on the Pittsburgh sports scene. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 3/6/2014)
The Penguins are 0-9-2 here since a 5-2 win Oct. 22, 1997.
In this one, a wild third period was capped by Joe Thornton, who scored on a knukle-puck shot from the left point to the far side that eluded Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff and broke a 3-3 tie with 5:39 left in regulation.
“It’s going a little bit over the net, and I’m about to catch it, and it drops probably two feet just inside the post. Just one of those bounces,” said Zatkoff, who had been 9-0-1 in his past 10 games. He made 42 saves as the Penguins were outshot, 47-22.
“He played well all game long, had some big saves throughout the game. Those things happen. You can’t explain those ones sometimes,” said Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who has not scored in six career games against the Sharks.
And so the Penguins have dealt with more than 16 years of futility in a building that has had different names but the same result.
Since that win in 1997, it’s looked like this: a 3-2 loss Jan. 15, 1999; a 1-1 tie Oct. 30, 1999; a 3-2 loss Nov. 1, 2000; a 5-0 loss Nov. 29, 2001; a 5-2 loss Dec. 12, 2002, a 4-2 loss Feb. 27, 2004; a 3-2 loss Nov. 4, 2006; a 2-1 loss Oct. 28 2008; a 5-0 loss Nov. 7, 2009; and a 4-3 shootout loss Nov. 3, 2011.
The Penguins also potentially lost defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who left in the first period and did not return. Coach Dan Bylsma did not disclose Bortuzzo’s injury but said he will be re-evaluated.
The game marked the Penguins debut of forwards Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc, who were acquired in trades a day earlier. They got a taste of what the Penguins have dealt with here for years.
“We had a good start. In the first period, we were all over them,” Stempniak said. They’re a team that really thrives on momentum in this arena. We took our foot off the gas and let them take the play to us, and we just never got back.”
The Penguins broke through during a fast-paced first period with a goal by Olli Maatta at 15:09. He swooped in on Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, grabbed a short rebound and swept the puck around Niemi’s outstretched right let for a 1-0 lead.
After San Jose winger Brent Burns mugged Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi to earn a roughing minor penalty, the Penguins increased their lead on a power play.
Evgeni Malkin dug the puck out of the corner and fed Chris Kunitz, who beat Niemi on a one-timer from the slot to make it 2-0 at 16:11 of the first period.
That lead held until 17:47 of the second period, when Sharks center Tommy Wingels scored to cut the Penguins lead in half at 2-1. With teammate Adam Burish keeping Zatkoff occupied in the crease, the puck trickled over the goal line. Wingels was the last San Jose player to touch the puck.
The Sharks then turned up the physical side of things and began to control play.
San Jose tied it, 2-2, at 5:18 of the third period on Patrick Marleau’s shorthanded goal. Jason Demers tipped the puck in his end, setting up Marleau, who got around Penguins point man Evgeni Malkin and beat Zatkoff with a backhand.
The Penguins – who got a four-minute power-play when Simon Despres got high-sticked by Matt Nieto – scored on the same man-advantage. Maatta scored on a back-door play for his first two-goal game, making it 3-2 at 5:39 of the third period.
San Jose struck back at 6:52, tying it once again, 3-3, when Brent Burns, in the slot, one-timed a setup from Joe Pavelski.
After Thornton’s winner, Burns added an empty-netter to make it 5-3.
“Giving up five goals is too much,” Maatta said.
First Published March 7, 2014 1:13 AM