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Pens Refocus Following Game 5 Setback

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens always knew it wouldn't be easy. 

Beating the President's Trophy-winning Washington Capitals would be a huge challenge. Let alone doing so in just five games and ending the series in a hostile environment, the Verizon Center.

Pittsburgh was well aware it would see the Caps' best game in Game 5 as they faced elimination.

"To be in their building, they're going to be rocking," Jake Guentzel said. "We know what to expect."

"We know the elimination game is the toughest game of all," Olli Maatta said. "They're going to bring their best." 

Washington did, indeed, bring its best. And its best was good enough to pull out a 4-2 victory to stave off elimination and force a Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

"It's always the most challenging game and we had the right mindset coming in," said captain Sidney Crosby, who returned to the ice following a concussion. "We'll learn from it and go back home."

The Pens held a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but Nicklas Backstrom tied the game just 2:49 into the final frame. A pair of goals 27-seconds apart - from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin - sealed the game for Washington. 

But all this really means for the Pens is that they have an opportunity to close out the series in Game 6 at home. And they don't have to look to far into history for some inspiration.

After all, it was only one season ago that the Pens squared off against the Capitals in the Second Round. In similar fashion, Pittsburgh had a chance to end the series in Game 5 in Washington, only to suffer a 3-1 setback.

No matter. The Pens finished the job in Game 6 in a 4-3 overtime win on the now famous Nick Bonino tally that led to the Punjabi call "Bonino! Bonino! Bonino!"

"That's a positive memory that we have and a good experience for us," Carl Hagelin said. "Our plan is to go home and win a game in Pittsburgh." 

The Caps are too good of a team to be brushed aside in five games. In a way, we should have seen this coming all along.

Still, the Pens are in complete control of their own destiny. It takes four wins to take a series. Pittsburgh just needs one.

"You play the best team in the league you don't expect to sweep them or win in five," Bonino said. "We expected a long, hard series. That's what our mindset has been no matter what.

 "We're just going to keep going. We have a chance to close out at home and we feel comfortable there."

Now the Pens will turn the page on Game 5 and refocus for Game 6. Pittsburgh has been remarkable under head coach Mike Sullivan in playoff games following a loss. The Pens boast a 9-1 record in those instances.

"We're not going to overthink (Game 5)," Sullivan said. "We did a lot of good things tonight. It's two pretty good hockey teams playing against one another.

"We have to have a short memory. We just have to reset our mindset and go home and try to put our very best on the ice." 

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