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Pens Focus on Strong Start for Game 5

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
A trend has emerged over the first four games of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Lightning.

The team that has scored first has won every time.

“We’ve got to make sure we start well again like we did the last two games,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek said of the team’s mindset heading into Saturday’s Game 5. “And hopefully get that first goal, because it seems like the team that scores first has a big advantage in this series.”

After the Penguins earned a resounding 3-0 victory over the Lightning in Game 1, the Lightning got on the board just 2:02 minutes into Game 2 en route to a 5-1 victory.

That game served as a wake-up call to the Penguins and taught them a hard lesson about the importance of drawing first blood in what’s developed into a dogfight of a series.

“Our focus going into the game, our start,” forward Maxime Talbot said of what the Penguins took from Game 2 that they’ve been implementing throughout the rest of the series. “The importance of the first goal, starting the game the right way – that’s what we’ve learned.”

“Once they have the lead, they’re very good at holding that,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “So I think they’re going to be coming out strong, and we’ve just got to give it all we’ve got.”

The Penguins’ early leads in Games 3 and 4 proved to be essential in getting the victories, as the Lightning came back and tied each game. Without those strong starts, it would have been tough to withstand Tampa Bay’s rallies.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has been to two Stanley Cup Finals with Pittsburgh, knows from experience the importance of a fast start on Saturday in deflating a team on the brink of elimination.

“You don’t want to give them any life, especially if you can score early,” Orpik said. “If you can put doubt in their heads right away – I’ve been on the opposite end of it where the other team starts well. Even if you don’t score first, if you take over the game early, it puts a lot of doubt in their minds. You can make them doubt themselves pretty early.”

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