-- In the first two games of their series against the Washington Capitals
, the Pittsburgh Penguins
had great starts, but lost both games in the end.
In Game 3, they came out slow and fell behind early, but battled back to win in overtime.
The goal now becomes taking those two halves and molding them into one complete effort, starting Friday night in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
said that starts with being ready to go from the drop of the puck. That's how they played in Games 1 and 2, as Crosby scored first-period goals in both games. Game 3, however, started with Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
flubbing a Washington dump-in and letting the puck roll free in the slot while he was out of the net. Alexander Ovechkin pounced on it and scored, putting the Pens behind just 1:23 into the game.
"It's a mindset," Crosby said of the fast starts. "I think we had the right intentions. I think we got a bad break with the first goal, and they might have gotten some momentum out of that. I don't think we really played awful, but we didn't initiate quite as much. We want to make sure we focus more on that. We focus on that every game, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. But our mindset is there and hopefully we can bring that again."
Crosby said that starts with continuing to put pucks on net. Washington goalie Simeon Varlamov has been outstanding, but the Penguins continue to believe he's leaving them ample opportunities.
"We've had the mindset to shoot the puck as much as we can," Crosby said. "If anything, you want to keep driving the net more, look for those rebounds. We've been there sometimes and haven't been able to get our stick on it -- they've done a good job there. It's just being hungry and finding those loose pucks around the net."
As good as Varlamov has been, the Caps also have done a nice job protecting him thanks to the backchecking diligence of their forwards.
"They collapse in the defensive zone," Crosby said. "They have five guys in tight. ... It's just the style they have down there. They try to shrink everything and block shots, things like that, so you really have to battle hard."
A win Friday night in Game 4 not only would even the series, it would seriously swing the momentum in the Pens' favor. With Game 5 following 24 hours later, the winner of Game 4 will have a large emotional advantage as well.
That's something to deal with after Game 4, however.
"You can't afford to do that (worry about Game 5)," Crosby said. "We'll focus on this one. We saw the schedule, we know what to expect, but that's the way it is and we have to focus on tonight. ... This is a big game, there's no doubt. We were in the same situation last game. We responded well and we have to do the same thing tonight."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.