WASHINGTON — A few minutes into the third period, Sidney Crosby took a cross-ice pass from Phil Kessel at the right post and had a chance to tie the game on his stick.
It was a spot he had been in so many times before, and in most cases, especially against the rival Washington Capitals, he delivered the dagger.
On this occasion, he shot wide of the far post.
Crosby’s power-play shot was hardly the only play that went awry for the Penguins in a 4-1 loss to the Capitals on Friday night, but it did provide a perfect snapshot of not only where the two-time defending champs are at this point in the season but also where they were on this particular night.
For the season, they’re having a hard time scoring goals, managing just 17 in their last 10 games. They’ve lost three consecutive road games to fall to 9-7-2 for the season. Crosby hasn’t scored in any of the last 10 games, falling into the second-longest goal drought of his career.
On Friday, though, they took the “L” largely because they lost the special teams battle.
Late in the second period with the score tied 1-1, Kris Letang was called for cross-checking for roughing up T.J. Oshie, then got caught for high-sticking before the Penguins possessed the puck to draw a whistle.
Referees don’t often call two minors on the same player on the same play, but it’s the second time it’s happened to the Penguins this month. Jake Guentzel got doubled up against Edmonton on Nov. 1.
“It doesn’t happen very often, but as I always say, ‘They’re going to call it the way they see it,’ ” coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Penguins doggedly killed the penalties for three minutes, 59 seconds until John Carlson took a pass at the right point and fired a shot toward the slot that Oshie tipped up into the cage.
“It’s tough,” center Riley Sheahan said. “You’re trying to work your hardest to not let them score. It does suck having that goal in the last second.”

The Penguins had their chances to find the equalizer, especially when the Capitals were called for two minor penalties in a span of three minutes early in the third. The power play, which has carried the Penguins at times in the early part of the season, came up empty.
“You get a couple back to back there, early in the period too,” Crosby said. “When you’ve got good ice and you’re fresh at the start of a period, you want to take advantage of those. That’s probably the difference in the game.”
As for the shot that sailed wide, Crosby said he’s not sure what he could have done differently, beyond tucking the puck inside the far post, of course.
“I thought I did the right thing,” Crosby said. “It’s one of those plays where the goalie’s kind of going to beat you back to the (near) side. You try to go back against the grain on him. Unfortunately, that’s the way it’s going right now.”
Chandler Stephenson added an insurance goal for the Capitals with about six minutes left off a feed from Nicklas Backstrom, who snapped a seven-game scoreless streak.
The Penguins were left to stew — mostly about Oshie’s tie-breaking goal — heading into a tough back-to-back situation at Nashville on Saturday night.
“It’s tough,” Sullivan said. “There’s one second left on the kill and for the most part, they really didn’t get much. The killers were doing a really good job. That was one of those goals that stung a little bit, but we’ve got to find a way to be a little more resilient. We need some push-back.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.