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Penguins hope final swing is in their favor

by Adam Kimelman /
PITTSBURGH -- The momentum swings have been like a pendulum, back and forth, back and forth.

The Pittsburgh Penguins seemed to have taken control after sweeping the back-to-back marathon of Games 4 and 5 Friday and Saturday nights. But with their season on the line, the Washington Capitals stole it back by winning Game 6 in overtime Monday night.

So how do the Penguins get things swinging back their way in time for the decisive Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) in Washington? Can they get their level where it has to be in time?

"It's a Game 7," defenseman Hal Gill said. "You don't need to come back and gear up. It's Game 7, that's what it's all about."

There's no time to mourn the death of their first opportunity to close the series. Much like they did in the first round, when the Penguins lost a chance to close out Philadelphia at home, they know what lies ahead of them -- going into a raucous, sold-out enemy arena packed with fans that want nothing more than to give their back-to-the-wall team the emotional lift that pushes them over the top. One of the Pens' goals becomes taking the fans out of the equation with strong early play.

"It's real important, especially the first 5 or 10 minutes, we have to try to take the air out of the building and make them play our way," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "I think we've been able to do that the first three games we played there. We didn't get the outcome in the first two games but I thought we did it in all three. If we can do that, we can get into a groove and dictate the game with our play and we can get the lead."

Getting the lead hasn't been an issue for the Penguins. It's building upon it that's been the issue.

Pittsburgh scored the first goal in all three games in Washington, but never pressed the advantage. Sidney Crosby scored the first goal in Game 1, but Washington scored twice to take a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Crosby again scored the game's first goal in Game 2, but the Pens never built on it. And Jordan Staal scored the opening goal in Game 5, but the Caps scored the next two to lead after one period.

The Pens have had a two-goal lead only in Game 4 -- and twice that lead was sliced in half before they finally won 5-3.

"You're talking about two really good teams," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's not like we can get a stranglehold. They're going to respond. They have good players, their goaltender is playing well and they can come back with one rush, one power play."

"That's been really the way the series has worked out," Crosby said. "It's been tight hockey. Both teams realize the importance of staying within striking distance. Teams that are up realize the importance of getting that two-goal lead. Everyone is desperate, everyone realizes the weight of the situation."

The weight the Penguins feel is to continue to believe that if they keep playing the way they're supposed to, the desired results will be there.

"We believe if we have that same effort, things are going to go our way," Crosby said.

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