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Penguins Have Only Just Begun to Fight

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- For Pittsburgh, now is the time to fight.

Not literally fight, like a clearly frustrated Evgeni Malkin did in raining down punches on Henrik Zetterberg in the closing seconds of Sunday's 3-1 loss to Detroit in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, a loss that puts the Penguins in a 0-2 hole in this best-of-7 series.

Game 3 is Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) at Mellon Arena and the Pittsburgh Penguins know they will have to raise their engagement level to beat the defending champions and get back into this series.

Pittsburgh began that process Monday by holding a meeting at Mellon Arena. The dominant theme coming from the coaching staff is that the Penguins need to work harder -- especially around the Detroit net.

In fact, Dan Bylsma says his Penguins can learn from Detroit. The Red Wings have six goals in this series and at least four of them have come while Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been besieged by Detroit forwards around -- or even in -- his crease.

"They've been better at that net-front area and getting the loose pucks," Bylsma said Monday. "They've gotten the dirtier goals and a lot of times that is what playoff hockey comes down to.

"Our challenge is not to be satisfied, not too think that's good enough. We can't worry about the mistakes or the bounces. We've got to do a better job of getting to the net."

Pittsburgh's only goal in Game 2 is a prime example of what Bylsma wants from his team. Malkin scored from the high slot, squeezing a puck through the legs of Chris Osgood while Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby created crease chaos.

Osgood has been very good in the first two games, stopping 62 of 64 shots. But Pittsburgh faced a hot goalie in the second round in Washington's Simeon Varlamov, who staked the Capitals to a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinal series before Pittsburgh stormed back to win four of the next five games, including a six-goal outburst in Game 7.

"We need to puck more pucks and more bodies (on Osgood)," forward Chris Kunitz said. "It's the same thing with most goalies; if they can see the first one, they can get the rebounds. We had a few pucks laying around last game, but we just couldn't get our sticks to them to bang them in the net.

"The second and third chances need to be closer to the net. We can't be shooting and hoping pucks squeeze through and get in. We need to make sure they get into the back of the net."

To make that game plan work effectively, it has to be based upon a superior battle level. His team, he says, must win the majority of the 1-on-1 battles for the rest of this series; they must fight through checks and win the crease confrontations against Detroit's talented defense.

"You've got to keep at it," Bylsma said. "Keep on the game plan, keep wearing them down. You have to initiate and invest with how you play the game and where you play it. You have to deal with the emotions and get back to the task at hand."

And, that is just what the Penguins plan to do, judging by the comments made by the five players available to the media Monday.

"I don't think we are frustrated because this series is not over," alternate captain Sergei Gonchar said. "We're playing better, we are getting chances and the series is not over. We knew it wasn't going to be easy." 

Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor

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