The Pittsburgh Penguins return home to Mellon Arena for a Game 5 showdown with the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and a chance to advance into the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Penguins, who lead hold a 3-1 series lead after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at Philadelphia, would love to end the series with a win in Game 5 but know that the Flyers aren’t going to go away quietly into the night.
“We all know what’s at stake,” Bill Guerin said. “We know what kind of game Philadelphia is going to bring because they’re desperate. They’re in a must-win situation, but we are as well. We want to come out and have our best game (Thursday) night. We know we’re going to see their best game. We have to rise to the occasion and play our best.”
In the race to four, the Penguins are one shy of clinching the series. But every player will tell you that the fourth victory is always the most difficult to get because the opposing team is fighting for its life.
“That’s the thing about the playoffs, it’s never done until you win (the fourth game),” Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “They’ll be coming out hard. They’ll be playing good and we just have to try to finish it off.”
The Penguins gained valuable experience in these situations last season. Pittsburgh was ahead 3-1 against the New York Rangers and Flyers heading into a Game 5 at Mellon Arena. Each time the Penguins finished the job but they know that they’ll have to play their best to get that difficult fourth win.
“It’s always the toughest one to get,” center Sidney Crosby
said. “We know that and realize that. A team doesn’t get any more desperate than in a situation like that. We have to use our experience from the past and make sure we come up with a big game. We all realize it takes four games. We’ve got three and it doesn’t get any easier. That’s our mindset.”
We have an opportunity to get that fourth one but it’s a hard one to get. It’s the most difficult to get ... We know that they’re going to play desperate and hard. We know that they’re a good team. They’ve given us everything we can handle. We know it’s going to be a challenge and we want to make sure we’re focused and ready to play our game and take care of business.” - Dan Bylsma
“We have an opportunity to get that fourth one but it’s a hard one to get,” interim head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s the most difficult to get. We want to get it as soon as we can get it. We know that they’re going to play desperate and hard. We know that they’re a good team. They’ve given us everything we can handle. We know it’s going to be a challenge and we want to make sure we’re focused and ready to play our game and take care of business.”
Pittsburgh has the advantage of playing at home for Game 5. The Penguins are 11-2 at Mellon Arena in the postseason over the last two years, and tied a franchise record with a six-game winning streak during that stretch. The playoff atmosphere will be buzzing in Pittsburgh.
“We’re excited to be back home,” Guerin said. “Philly is a tough place to play. They’ve got their fans behind them. We’re just really excited to be a back in our building, playing in front of our fans.”
Part of the Pittsburgh’s home success has been the 17,000-plus fans – not counting those gathered outside to watch the game on the big screen – that help inspire and motivate the players. The Flyers can expect to see a “whiteout” at Mellon Arena, just as they did last year. All Penguins fans will receive a white t-shirt and towel and should give the Penguins a boost in the game.
“You’d always rather play in your building,” Guerin said. “Playing at home is a definite advantage when you have fans like ours. It will definitely give us an advantage.”
“We’ve been playing well, especially here in Pittsburgh,” Fleury said. “That would be great in front of our fans to try to close it out.”
But the Penguins know there is no time to rest or ease up. Pittsburgh has a heavy challenge ahead of them and the Flyers will play will full force to stave off elimination.
“We want to finish it off,” Crosby said. “As desperate as they are, we want to make sure our battle-level is there and we play with the same amount, if not, more (desperation). Our desperation has to be there too.”
“It’s the first one to four,” Bylsma said. “We have a jumpstart. We’re one away but a lot of times that fourth one can be the most difficult. We have to put the long, skinny pedal on the right down and play the best game we can play going home for Game 5. We can’t take a breather. We can’t say, ‘OK, we’re in a good position.’ We have to play desperate and hard. That’s how we have to approach the game.”Notes:
The Penguins held an optional practice at Mellon Arena Wednesday afternoon. The eight players that participated were forwards Tyler Kennedy
, Miroslav Satan, Eric Godard, Maxime Talbot, Craig Adams
and Pascal Dupuis
, defenseman Philippe Boucher and goaltender Mathieu Garon ... Bylsma on his use of a defensive lineup towards the end of Game 4: "We were in a situation where guys that are defensive minded and play in defensive situations were getting on the ice more. That was the reasoning. We put guys in situations that they excel in. Guys like Craig Adams
and Max Talbot, they’re going to get more ice time in situations like that when we’re up in a hockey game and it’s late and we need plays along the wall, faceoffs, blocked shots, all those things play into that."