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Pens loose, confident as series shifts home

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Anytime you walk into the locker room following a loss, you aren't sure quite what the team's mood will be.

Will they be angry? Disappointed? Depressed? Defeated?

All of those are possible. But walking into the Pens locker room following their 4-1 loss on Sunday to Washington that evened the Second Round series at 1-1, the players were: business like.

A flock of reporters surrounded Sidney Crosby. He was asked everything from the Capitals taking liberties to the disallowed goal to the loss. And his reaction was meh.

"That happens. It's the playoffs. Things don't always go your way," he said. "We can't control the other stuff. We have to keep playing. I thought we did a good job of that."

Winger Patric Hornqvist saw the crowd of reporters circling as he was taking off his equipment. He moved his bag out of the way and the reporters enclosed. Hornqvist, a veteran of nine straight playoff series wins, put everything in perspective.

"It's a 1-1 series. We knew it was going to be a long series," he said. "It's two good teams going at it. We'll learn from (the loss) and make sure we have a better start."
The Pens, who will host Games 3 and 4 at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday and Thursday, practiced at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Monday. The team was loose and confident. Their faces were adorned with smiles and laughs in between drills. Those same faces were adorned with sweat and intensity during the drills.

Pittsburgh is a battle-tested team. And after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, the players have learned how to navigate the highs and lows of postseason play.

"It's the playoffs. You can't dwell on any games," defenseman Justin Schultz said. "You have to move on. We have a new opportunity (on Tuesday) to go in front of our home fans and get a win. We're looking forward to it."

There were certainly a lot of things from Game 2 with which the Pens could take issue. There was the goal Hornqvist and the team believed it scored in the third period that was disallowed. Or winger Tom Wilson injuring defenseman Brian Dumoulin, and not having a hearing with the NHL Player Safety department.

However, this team has learned that grumbling about a loss won't help them once the puck drops in Game 3.

"It doesn't do us any good moving forward, that's the motivation to move on," Crosby said Monday. "We did some good things (in the loss), especially in the second and third (periods) and we'll build off of that. Worrying about the other stuff isn't really going to help us. We have a lot of good things to take away from that game."

The Caps upped their physicality in Game 2, and the Pens expect things to escalate.

"With each game in the playoffs that builds, the emotion, the intensity," Crosby said. "Guys are more familiar with each other. That's pretty typical."

And Washington will no doubt carry that over into Game 3 in an attempt to gain an advantage on Pittsburgh.

"Teams over the last handful of seasons have tried different tactics to beat us. Sometimes it's physical play or aggression," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We can be physical, but we don't want to get caught up playing somebody else's game. We'll just play our game."

And why not? Their game has led to consecutive championships. Pittsburgh did its job by splitting the opening two contests in the nation's capital. Now it has to get the job done at home.

"We love playing in front of our fans," Schultz said. "It's an exciting building to play in. We're really happy to have two games in front of them."

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