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Penguins put rest of series in past, focus on Game 7

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins would have rather avoided a Game 7 in their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Rangers. But after allowing a 3-1 series lead to evaporate, they want to embrace the moment.

Pittsburgh seemed to be playing its best hockey in several weeks after winning three straight games to take a 3-1 series lead. They regressed in the following two games, losing them by the combined score of 8-2, with the Rangers evening the series 3-3 entering Game 7 on Tuesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"I think a little bit, you can look at Games 3 and 4, and 5 and 6 as mirror opposites of each other," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "That was a team after Game 4 that was a little bit frustrated and a little bit disappointed with how they played and vowed to be better in Game 5 and were. … We can't live in Games 3 and 4. We certainly can't live in Games 5 and 6.

"We have the opportunity in Game 7 tomorrow night in our building, in front of our fans."

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby echoed Bylsma's words. He said Pittsburgh could have put itself in a better position by closing the series in either Game 5 or 6, but has to realize its work throughout the regular season provided home-ice advantage Tuesday.

"We didn't help ourselves with the last two games that we played. I don't think we look at the whole picture like that," Crosby said. "I think we look at responding. We look at this as an opportunity. We worked hard all year to get home ice.

"To get to this point, I think you have to look at it as an opportunity and try to make the most of it."

Crosby, who has one goal through 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games, has centered a line between forwards Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz through much of the past eight games. He said his relationship with Malkin is no different than with any other teammate.

"I think you have to have an appreciation for the guys you have in your locker room, no matter who they are or what their role is," Crosby said "So that doesn't change with me and [Malkin]. I think I appreciate what he brings and his game, and ultimately we just try to do our best to help our team win."

After scoring two goals and four points against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 22, Malkin pointed to a conversation he had with Crosby a few weeks earlier that he said helped improve his performance. Malkin referenced that conversation Tuesday when explaining why he enjoys his partnership with Crosby.

"You know the story about when at the Olympics, I played bad and Sid came to me," Malkin said. "We're good friends. I'm excited to play on the same line with Sid. I'm excited to play on the same team. He's the best player in the NHL."

The Penguins' two primary stars will be looked upon to provide heroics in Game 7. But Bylsma said it will not matter who saves the day, as long as it's one of his players who rises to the occasion.

"This is an opportunity and an experience we all kind of imagine," Bylsma said. "We've all played out in our backyards. We've all kind of done this before in one shape or another. There's going to be a hero in this game, and we have to embrace that and go after it, not just read about it in the paper on Wednesday morning.

"We have to go out and be that hero and embrace that opportunity."

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