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First Round

Penguins 'have to get down to business' in Game 2 against Islanders

Need short memory, must step up play after series-opening overtime loss

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been there, done that.

They've been down, and even declared finished, more than once during a sustained period of excellence that's brought 13 consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and three championships to Pittsburgh since centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin started playing together in 2006-07.

They're down again, this time entering Game 2 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG, MSG+, ATTSN-PT).

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Penguins series coverage]

 

But the Penguins aren't worried. Far from it. It's one reason coach Mike Sullivan brought a little levity to practice Thursday. Once all players were on the ice, all left-handers started playing with right-handed sticks, and vice versa. It had nothing to do with the 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1 on Wednesday and everything to do with keeping the mood light before getting serious.

"It was more about just to boost the morale, have some fun, give the guys a chance to get a little bit of a sweat and then get into the guts of the practice," Sullivan said.

That's a microcosm of how the Penguins are again dismissing any semblance of panic, They have lost seven of their past nine Game 1s on the road during the Crosby-Malkin era. They won the Cup in consecutive seasons (2016, 2017) after being eliminated from the 2015 playoffs in the first round. Resilience is part of their DNA, and that showed early in the season when a 1-7-2 rut left them 7-8-4. They recovered to finish 44-26-12, third in the Metropolitan Division.

So come Friday, it's another clean slate.

"Doing it all year is where you have that experience," Crosby said. "You can't try to turn that on in the playoffs. That's something you build all year long and going through different situations. That's something that gets you here and it's something that you have to continue to do once you get here. I think that's where you draw it from."

Video: Analyzing Islanders winning Game 1 against Penguins

They also draw off the leadership and experience in the locker room. Many players remain from Pittsburgh's championship teams of 2016 and '17, with Crosby, Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang going back to 2009. They know what it takes. They set the tone. They know how to do damage control.

"You have to focus on your own game," said forward Matt Cullen, a 22-year NHL veteran and three-time Cup winner. "There's a lot of outside stuff going on. You can analyze everything, but the bottom line is we have to focus on what we're doing. That's one thing we can control. We have to get down to business and take care of what we can control and hope it turns into a win."

That means taking an early lead to quiet the full house at Nassau Coliseum. It also means defying statistical history. Teams that take a 1-0 lead in a best-of-7 series have won 68.5 percent of the time (467-214); that goes up to 75.5 percent (327-106) for teams that win on home ice, as the Islanders did in Game 1.

Don't bother telling the Penguins the odds.

"It's not being too high and not being too low," defenseman Olli Maatta said. "You have to have a pretty even-keel mentality. Obviously, we wanted to win last night, but you have to have a short memory now. It was one game and we have to go get that [win] tomorrow.

"It's the confidence that we have in this group. If we play the game that right way and we play together, we can beat anybody. I know we're good enough to beat anybody in this league. The biggest thing is being on a same page and playing together."

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