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Penguins in unfamiliar territory after loss in Game 5

Pittsburgh squanders two leads, faces elimination for first time in 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins are in unfamiliar territory.

Pittsburgh surrendered two leads in its 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center on Sunday. 

The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. Game 6 is Tuesday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

After losing consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 12 and 15, the Penguins face elimination for the first time in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan is confident his team will answer appropriately in Game 6.

Video: Sullivan on defense, losing 4-3 in overtime

"I know our guys will respond the right way," Sullivan said. "They have for four months, five months now. Anytime your back is against the wall, you have to heighten your urgency even that much more and heighten the intensity that much more. I told them after the game, it's disappointing. We're all disappointed we didn't get the result tonight, but we can't change it.

"So, all we have to do is we have to gather ourselves, we have to go back at it and try to win a game. This group has done a terrific job all year of just staying in the moment and not dwelling on the past, not getting ahead of itself and just trying to focus on that one game at hand and that's what we're going to have to try to do."

Resiliency has defined the Penguins for a few months, but wasn't displayed Sunday.

Pittsburgh had a 2-0 lead on goals from forwards Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist, then allowed two goals 1:10 apart with 5:35 remaining in the second period.

The Penguins regained the lead on Chris Kunitz's goal with 49.6 seconds left in the second. They survived a double minor high-sticking penalty against defenseman Olli Maatta early in the third period and a shot from Lightning forward Ryan Callahan that rung off the right post with 3:55 remaining.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm5: Kucherov nets second to even game late

But 39 seconds later, the game was tied 3-3 on Nikita Kucherov's second goal of the game.

"I think we expect to do certain things and when it doesn't go our way, we have to rally," Kunitz said. "I think it's just chipping the puck or getting a hit or extending a shift, things guys can rally around on the bench."

Pittsburgh anticipates a consistent effort in Game 6, but will face a lingering question.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 25 shots in his first start of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He hadn't played since March 31 after sustaining a concussion. After the game, Sullivan said he would assess Fleury's performance after he has time to digest the game.

Pittsburgh's goaltending situation remains clouded entering an elimination game. Regardless of if he or rookie goalie Matt Murray starts, Fleury believes the Penguins will bounce back.

"We know how we got here," Fleury said. "We had a great run … We're still confident that we can beat them. Nothing is over. It's a [best-of-7]. We need to get back there and get one."

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