But coach Dan Bylsma made it very clear before Game 6 here Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) he had no intention of bringing their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series back to Pittsburgh for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.
"That is our mentality. We don't have six periods, we just have three," Bylsma said following the team's morning skate Saturday. "The fourth game is the hardest to win and we expect the very best from their team [Saturday]. We have to be ready for that."
Any false sense of security didn't serve the Penguins well when they opened the series with a dominating 5-0 Game 1 win. Following that one-sided result, Pittsburgh lost two of its next three games, with the lone win coming on Chris Kunitz's overtime power-play goal in Game 3. With the Islanders facing an elimination game, the Penguins are looking to avoid the mistakes that plagued them earlier in the series.
"We know that they're going to bring their very best and be a desperate hockey team," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We need to match that level and have that urgency to close it out. Within the room, guys are just worried about playing their best game of the series. That's got to be our focus."
If the Penguins eliminate the Islanders on Saturday, it will be with Tomas Vokoun in net. The veteran backup started Game 5 in Pittsburgh after longtime starter Marc-Andre Fleury struggled in the previous three games. Vokoun stopped all 31 shots, including 14 in the first period, to earn the shutout in his first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2007 when he was a member of the Nashville Predators.
"We have 16 teams in the playoffs and there isn't one you are going to bowl over. To make the playoffs in the NHL, you need to be a good team," Vokoun said. "They have their own weapons, we have ours. It's who performs the tactics and their game plan better who usually wins the game."
Vokoun's start in Game 5 made headlines earlier in the week, especially after Fleury struggled in Game 4, allowing six goals on 24 shots. But many members of the Penguins came to Fleury's defense, saying it was their play and not Fleury's miscues that cost them in Game 4.
"We didn't play well in front of [Fleury]. You guys can say anything about [Fleury], but that's not his fault," defenseman Kris Letang said. "It's us making turnovers, making bad management with the puck. There is no question about the goalies in our head. It's the way we play."
Here is Pittsburgh's projected lineup for Game 6 against the Islanders. The Islanders' lineup is in flux until the status of second-line center Frans Nielsen is known: