As the playoffs progress, the Penguins are learning what it takes to be successful.
While it didn’t show on the scoreboard Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss to Ottawa in Game 4 at Mellon Arena, the young Penguins continue their postseason development in their first tour of duty in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That’s why the team remains so positive despite facing elimination with a 3-1 series deficit heading into Game 5 Thursday in Ottawa.
“It’s tough. I think we have to be proud of the way we played [Tuesday], though,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “We can come into the room and every guy can look in the mirror and say they gave an honest effort and laid it out there.
“It’s playoff hockey; you’re not always going to come out with a win. But, we laid it out there and I think we showed ourselves and showed them we are a tough team to play against when we want to,” he continued. “Moving forward, we didn’t get the win, but going into Ottawa, if we bring that game, we have a chance.”
The Penguins matched the Senators in intensity, talent and goaltending Tuesday night. The glaring difference? One crazy bounce that led to Ottawa’s first goal as Jason Spezza’s shot deflected off a Penguins defender and blooped into the net.
“That was the first time we felt comfortable playing a playoff game,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “It’s important feeling comfortable to play this time of the year. The players before the game were focused and knew the importance of the game. You like to win those games, but you need breaks to win those games and we didn’t have any. They got a break to score their first goal. Both teams played well. It was a good game.”
The Penguins overcame the unfortunate sequence to knot the game through two periods. Anton Volchenkov’s goal 9:12 into the third period gave Ottawa the triumph.
“I think we have always felt we’ve belonged; it was just a matter of consistency. The consistency was there,” Crosby said. “We stuck to the game plan and they got a fluky goal early, but we stuck to the plan and kept playing the same way. We got some power-play opportunities and they unfortunately didn’t go well and that happens some times. If we play that way consistently going into Ottawa, we have a chance.”
It was the Penguins’ physical and intense play that gives the team optimism.
“We know we can compete with these guys,” Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We’re going to work hard in the next game and see what we can do from there.
“That’s the good thing about playoffs – it’s not over until you lose four times. So, we’re going to go and play a pretty good game up there. You never know, anything can happen.”
Crosby knows the Penguins must not only maintain their desperation, but dig even deeper on Thursday to avoid elimination.
“You leave it all out there. You have to win the next game. You can’t win three in one. You have to win the next game,” he said. “If we win the next one, we’re coming back home and have a couple days after that one. We just have to pour it all out there. I think [Tuesday] night we left it all out there and gave ourselves a chance. If we do that again, there’s no reason why we can’t come home with a win. I think we just have to focus on that.”
“You can’t look at the top of the mountain because it looks pretty high right now. You have to take one step at a time and we’ll see.”