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Penguins remain positive heading into Game 5 of Cup Final

Despite losing two straight to Predators, coach Mike Sullivan says they're focused, not desperate

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- After back-to-back losses on the road, the Pittsburgh Penguins have shifted their focus to what they have to do in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 at Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"I think we're just focused on tomorrow," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said after practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Wednesday. "That's how we're looking at it. We did some good things last game, so if we can build off of that, we'll put ourselves in a good spot. But we've got to be a little more consistent and make sure tomorrow's our best game.

"I think at this point of the series, both teams are pretty desperate, and they understand where we're at and the situation. I would expect both teams to be desperate."


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Penguins coach Mike Sullivan balked at the idea they are desperate heading into Game 5.

"I don't know that we feel we're against the ropes," he said. "I think we have to win a game. And that hasn't changed. 

"Desperate is a funny word for me because it gets thrown around our game a lot and it always has a connotation of hopelessness. And I don't believe that's the word we want to use to describe our team.

"I think we've got to play with urgency. I think we've got to play determined. I think we have to play with conviction. And I think when our team plays that way, we're at our very best. Our focus is really, quite honestly, on one game, and that's the approach that we have to take.

"And we've got to keep our mindset just focused on that short-term approach, just that on-task mindset of just controlling what we can and staying in the moment. That's where we're at, and that's all we've talked about with our team over the last couple of days."

Video: Crosby vs. Fisher turning into premier matchup

Veteran forward Chris Kunitz said the Penguins' assignment is straightforward.

"You're in the Stanley Cup Final and you need two games to win the Stanley Cup, so I think you're going to try to put everything you can out there every single shift, and that's something we're going to focus on," Kunitz said.

Rookie forward Jake Guentzel, whose 13 goals lead the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, agreed with Kunitz that Pittsburgh will have a win-at-all-costs mentality.

"You can leave it all out there," Guentzel said. "This is it. Best-of-3 now. We'll do whatever it takes to get this."

The biggest positive for the Penguins is they will be back in front of their fans for Game 5 after losing two straight at raucous Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators are 9-1 in the playoffs following a 5-1 win in Game 3 and a 4-1 victory in Game 4.

Pittsburgh is 9-3 at PPG Paints Arena in the postseason and has won five in a row since losing 2-1 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

"Our fans are electric," Guentzel said. "We've been good on home ice. We've just got to keep doing that. We'd like to (win), yeah. We're coming back home and we've just got to play our game and get back to our fans, and I think we'll be all right."

Said Crosby: "They're great. Hopefully, we give them lots to cheer about, but there's always a lot of energy here."

Video: Teams with 10+ home wins in single playoff year

Despite the Penguins losing two straight in Nashville, removing the possibility they could win the Cup at home in Game 5, large crowds are expected for viewing parties in the upper and lower plazas outside PPG Paints Arena on Thursday. It's a tradition that developed during the Penguins' run of 11 straight seasons in the playoffs.

"They're always loud and they're always pushing us to be the best we can be," forward Carl Hagelin said of Penguins fans. "And that's what's good; we've played well at home and they've always had our back. We get energy from our fans."

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