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Into the Lion's Den

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The worst-case scenario unfolded for the Penguins in the first two games of their opening round series against cross-state rival Philadelphia. Pittsburgh lost both games to trail 2-0 in the series and now have to play Games 3 and 4 on the road.

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“You don’t want to (to be down 2-0). Sometimes in life you’re forced to go through adversity,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “That’s what we’re facing right now. (Philadelphia) is a good hockey team. … You have to give them credit but at the same time we have to correct our mistakes.”

The Penguins understand that they have little room for error. They also understand the pivotal importance of Game 3, which will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center – an arena that has been less than welcoming when Pittsburgh comes to town.

“Their crowd will be into it. They have fans that love to be rowdy and rambunctious,” forward Chris Kunitz said. “It’s going to be a good test for us. We have to go there and prove we want to be in the series. We have to start with a win.”

The demeanor around the locker room after Saturday afternoon’s practice at Southpointe was business-like. The Penguins still believe in their game, however they know that they need to correct their recent mistakes if they wish to have any success against the Flyers.

“I don’t think we need to change a whole lot,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve made a few mistakes. If you look at (Game 2), we gave up two goals on our power play. You can’t do that and expect to win a hockey game. Little mistakes that we have to clean up. We want to manage the puck a little bit better, hold onto it a little bit more and possess it. That’s really where it’s at, managing the puck and not allowing them to get up ice.”

“We’ve had good starts. We just haven’t been able to hold on to it,” Kunitz said. “We have to do a better job as a team at not letting them score goals or putting pucks in areas that are tough for them. They’ve done a great job of staying with it and keep coming with their game. That’s something we have to keep doing.”

The Penguins are a veteran group that has experienced the highs and lows of the playoffs. In fact, they only need to look back to four seasons ago for lessons to use in the current postseason.

The last two times the Penguins fell behind 2-0 in a series they came back to win both series in seven games – both occurred during the team’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship run (Washington, Detroit). Twelve members of that ’09 team are on the Penguins’ current roster.

“I think you always try to use those experiences and understand what you need to do,” Crosby said. “That’s something that I think will help. At the end of the day we need to be our best in the next game.”

The Penguins have only lost the first two games of a playoff series at home once in team history – the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington. Pittsburgh won the next four games to win that series.

But this is a new time and new series. It’s up to the Penguins to take control of their fate and change the course of destiny – starting in Game 3.

“You have to go into it thinking every game is another chance to prove yourself,” Kunitz said. “You have to win one to win four. We need to put our best foot forward and get a win in their rink.”

“No matter what, in the playoffs you have to win on the road,” Letang said. “A good rivalry like that, you get a lift from those games. It’s fun to be a part of. We’ll see the true face of our team. We’ll see our true character.”

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