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Penguins still feel sting from Game 3 loss

by Arpon Basu /

OTTAWA - A day had passed, but the pain had not yet completely subsided Monday for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The mental pain of Sunday night's double-overtime loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators was still on the minds of the Penguins after a night of sleep. They were still wondering how they could have possibly allowed the tying goal with just 28.6 seconds remaining on regulation time while they were on a power play.

"I think everyone's disappointed," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "That was probably the best we've played in the playoffs for 59 1/2 minutes and kind of gave it away at the end. I think everyone's still a little disappointed today."

When Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson was called for slashing with 1:27 to play in the third period, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma informed his players that he wanted to play with the puck over the final 87 seconds. He sent Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin and Kris Letang over the boards - his normal power play unit.

The thinking was that if Pittsburgh was able to control the puck in the Ottawa zone, Senators coach Paul MacLean would not be able to pull goaltender Craig Anderson for an extra attacker.

Except that's not what happened.

"Unfortunately we had two situations where we dump the puck in and weren't able to put much pressure on the dump in and allow them to have a rush up the ice," Bylsma said. "We got that one back and again we didn't accomplish our goal of holding on to the puck and possessing the puck through that 1:27 and gave up a second dump."

The first dump was by Malkin, but it was the second dump by Kunitz that eventually turned into Daniel Alfredsson's tying goal. The Senators' captain came to his own blue line and dropped a pass to Sergei Gonchar, who crossed the Penguins' blue line and sent the puck to the side boards to Milan Michalek. Meanwhile, Alfredsson raced completely unnoticed to the front of the net, where he re-directed Michalek's pass past Tomas Vokoun to tie the game.

"It was just the situation," Kunitz explained. "You don't want to be too offensive but you don't want to sit back, so you go on the ice and you get passive. You dump pucks, you don't possess the puck as much as you want, then when that happens you sit back a little and they start coming with speed.

"We just have to have a better focus when we're out there on what we're trying to accomplish."

Bylsma further explained that the Penguins were in the middle of a line change on the tying goal, with Crosby coming off for Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis waiting to come on. Both players kill penalties for Pittsburgh.

"We knew at that point in time it was going to turn into a 5-on-5, which it had with Anderson leaving the net," Bylsma said. "Dupuis would have been the next forward."

The lapse in execution with 30 seconds remaining wiped out what Bylsma called his team's best road game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- and what Orpik thought was the Penguins' best postseason game, period.

But Orpik feels the veteran nature of the Penguins will allow them to put it in the rear-view mirror, especially with another day off before Game 4 is played Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"I think with a younger team you might be a little more fragile, maybe tiptoe into the next game," he said. "I think a veteran team - as disappointed as you are giving it away the way we did - I think you learn from it and I think you look more at how we got all the way until the 30-second mark, how well we played there and just try to piece together what went right for us."

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