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First Round

Penguins confident, not going to panic heading into Game 3

Return home trailing Islanders in first-round series

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Kris Letang said there's little reason for the Pittsburgh Penguins to panic.

After losing 3-1 to the New York Islanders in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Friday, the Penguins trail the best-of-7 series with Game 3 at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday (12 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).


[RELATED: Islanders ride home-ice advantage to Game 2 win | Complete Islanders vs. Penguins series coverage]


"If they can win two in a row, we can do the same thing," the Penguins defenseman said. "I don't think there's any doubt in our mind that we're [not] going to lose all four. We're confident in our group."

Letang speaks from experience. He was with the Penguins when they won the Stanley Cup after losing the first two games of the 2009 Eastern Conference Second Round to the Washington Capitals and Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings.

However, most current Penguins weren't on the team in 2009. In fact, three (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Letang) were with Pittsburgh the last time it trailed a series 2-0, when it was outscored 12-2 by the Boston Bruins in a four-game sweep in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final.

Goalie Matt Murray, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, has routinely said he simply focuses on one game at a time throughout the season. Facing a new challenge, he said that stays the same.

"We just have to worry about tomorrow's game," Murray said. "That's what we're preparing for. ... We just have to do what we need to do to try to give ourselves the best chance to win. I don't think anything changes. We just have to focus on our game."

Video: Eberle, Lehner lead Isles to Game 2 win vs. Penguins

Forward Bryan Rust said he doesn't think the Penguins have to alter the way they approach Game 3. That said, he realizes Pittsburgh likely can't afford to allow another game to come and go without a win.

"I think it doesn't matter what series you're in, you're always trying to win four games first whether you try to get all four right away or you're down 3-0," Rust said. "I don't think that mindset changes. You're going to try to just learn from the game before and try to get a win the next game. 

"Obviously, our margin for error is now getting smaller and smaller. So, we definitely have to be mindful of that."

Despite little change in their mentality, the Penguins will likely tweak their lineup for Game 3.

Dominik Simon could move from the third line to first-line right wing, bumping Rust from the first line to third-line left wing. Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist could trade places, moving to second-line right wing and third-line right wing. 

Jared McCann, who remains day to day after missing Game 2 with an upper-body injury, said he's optimistic he'll play Sunday after practicing Saturday. He rotated at second-line left wing with Zach Aston-Reese during line rushes.

No matter the lineup, Crosby said he expects the Penguins to respond well.

"You have to find out what works for you," said Crosby, who does not have a point and has three shots and six giveaways in the two games. "I think that's just something that you just have to figure out. It's not something that happens overnight. It's a fun time of year. However you handle it, or whatever you do, this is the time of year where you want to be playing."

The Penguins seemed satisfied with everything but the result from Game 2. If they can take another step Sunday, Letang said they'll be fine.

"After Game 1, we came in and looked at the video," Letang said. "We made adjustments, and I think we improved our game a lot. I think in Game 2, it was a matter of who capitalized on their chances. At the end of the day, they're up 2-0. We have to come in our building, set the tone and play our way."

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