The Penguins’ opening round Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Islanders went from a best-of-7 to a best-of-5 with both teams even at 1-1.
The series shifts to Long Island for a pivotal Game 3 Sunday at noon at Nassau Coliseum.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma knows the importance of Sunday’s game. And he also knows the challenges of playing in the Islanders’ first home playoff game since 2007. The fans have waited a long time for this moment and they’ll be sure to make their presence felt.
“Going on the road for Game 3 and it’s 1-1, it’s a big game,” Bylsma said. “We know we’re going into a road building. We need to be prepared for our absolute best starting with the drop of the puck (Sunday).”
The Penguins were at their best in Game 1. The results showed as they cruised to a 5-0 victory. However, as great as they played in that contest was how poorly they played in Game 2 – a 4-3 setback.
“We want to make sure we bounce back,” said captain Sidney Crosby, who scored two goals in his Game 2 return from injury. “We didn’t play the game we wanted to. It’s just a matter of making sure we’re better.”
Matt Niskanen pointed to the Penguins’ puck management as their key failure in Game 2 and an area they need to improve.
“A lot of it is just managing the puck better,” Niskanen said. “When you turn the puck over in the neutral zone that gives them a lot of open ice to freewheel, make plays and come after you. Correctable stuff. We’ll regroup.”
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has regrouped from the Game 2 loss. In many ways, he was the teams best player, making 38 saves. But he allowed four goals – three on fluke plays off the end boards.
But Fleury is a veteran with 77 NHL playoff games worth of experience (not to mention a Stanley Cup title and two Cup Final appearances). He’s seen his share of ups and downs in the postseason.
“That’s how you get consistent,” Fleury said. “You’ll have tough losses and good wins. But at the end of the day it’s just one game. You have to learn from it and be ready for the next one.
“It’s a new day. We had a good practice (Saturday). Just have to be ready for (Sunday).”
Defenseman Matt Niskanen summarized it best.
“We’ll see what’s in store for Game 3,” he said. “We’ll adjust. They were better (in Game 2). We’ll come back.”