The Pittsburgh Penguins
felt they had done what they needed to do in the first two games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Capitals
. It was a few mistakes and bad bounces that put them in a two-game hole.
So coming into a pivotal Game 3 Wednesday night at Mellon Arena, the feeling was staying with the plan would result in victory. It wasn't going to be easy, but there's been a belief structure built since Dan Bylsma
took over as coach, and it was personified on the ice.
That belief is what kept them staying with the plan despite an awful bounce that led to the Caps' first goal; staying with it despite scoring just once on seven power plays; and it meant staying with it even after Washington forced overtime by scoring with 1:50 left in the third period.
"We stuck with things here tonight and that's what you have to do," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
. "You have to have trust in what you're doing out there and we have that."
That trust in the system allowed the Penguins to take a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 3 and pull within 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4, which will be held here on Friday.
"It was desperation for us," said Crosby. "We're still in that position now. We knew this was a big game, and guys came to play, everyone from the goalie out. We battled hard and we didn't get frustrated when the chances that we had weren't going in, we stuck with things. We believed that we were eventually going to get that break and we did."
It was a break Crosby helped create. After scoring four of the Pens' first goals in the series, his biggest contribution was winning an offensive-zone faceoff against David Steckel
. The clean win saw the puck slide back to defenseman Mark Eaton
, who moved the puck to defense partner Kris Letang
. The latter's one-timer hit Washington defenseman Shaone Morrisonn
in front and ricocheted past goaltender Simeon Varlamov at 11:23 of the extra period.
"We knew we had Tanger set up for the one-timer if we won it clean," said Crosby. "Just got it back to Eaton and then over to Letang so he could get the shot off. We finally got a bounce there. Certainly we work on little plays sometimes and it's nice to see one work."
They'll need to keep up the good work if they hope to even the series Friday.
"You're forced to respond when you go down 2-0 and you lose both there," said Crosby. "As a team, it's up to you to come home and do the same thing. We started that here tonight with getting a big win. Anytime you go down 2-0 on the road, you have to come home and respond. It was good to get the one here tonight. We have to fight hard here the next one, also."
While Varlamov turned in another strong effort for the Caps, Crosby believes there were even more opportunities in their 42 shots in Game 3 his team didn't capitalize on.
"Especially from the second period on, I thought we did exactly what we needed to do," said Crosby. "We generated tons of chances. We could have scored a lot more -- Varlamov made some big saves. We had a lot of pucks lying around the net that we just didn't put in. We stuck to what we need to do and it was nice to see it pay off."
Contact Adam Kimelman at: email@example.com.