The Pittsburgh Penguins said they were not ready to press the panic button, even after taking a lead over the New York Islanders and giving them a crucial chance to play their first-round playoff series. the Stanley Cup.
Maybe they've already done it.
The Penguins not only changed their lineup, but they spent a good chunk of the first two periods shooting shots on goal and allowed the Islanders to gain momentum in the third period for a 3-1 win in Game 2 on Friday. evening at the Nassau Coliseum.
While Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper called the Lightning losing his first two games against Columbus as "a five-shot fire," Mike Sullivan looked more like a two-time Cup champion coach. than an opponent.
Again, the Lightning lost two at home. The Penguins have lost two on the road, so they know it's far from over.
"The message, as I told players after the game:" It's the first team to win four games, not two, "said Sullivan." We have to go home. control what we can and win a match, and we'll start from there.
The Penguins are in a difficult situation, not just because they did not win a game at the Nassau Coliseum. They are in a funk, which is not easy to solve. They do not play the hockey brand that led to consecutive Cup championships in 2016-17. As Sullivan says, they do not play properly.
The Penguins are talking about focusing on their game, but their strategy has been to thwart the Islanders by pushing the puck past the failure before, even taking cold calls to keep it out of their own goal. This strategy led to a second hypothesis of a star.
"We are seeing mistakes, which we have done wrong," said the Penguins' center, Evgeni Malkin. "I think it's huge, like when we lose the puck in the neutral zone. … we know that they have five guys on the front and try to block our passes. Maybe from the blue line, we should net. "
But there are signs that the Penguins are doing it because they do not trust their blue liners. It started with Sullivan's decision to scratch Jack Johnson for Game 1, but only to reinstate Johnson in place of Olli Maatta for Game 2.
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Johnson made this call dubious during the first period, when he was called for a high sticking at 13:38. Only nine seconds after coming off the penalty, Johnson collided with a pair of Islanders defensemen, first Johnny Boychuk, then sent Adam Pelech to turn on the ice.
Malkin and Johnson both had two relays in the penalty area in the first period. The fact that the Penguins were called for eight penalties has compounded their problems, forcing them to stay on the ice while holding their markers on the bench.
"Ideally, we would not have to remove as many penalties, but I still thought we had a good chance," Crosby said. "I think the execution is underway. They get the big game and big goals. When the match is tied, you have to find a way to get the next one. Unfortunately, we did not do that.
The Penguins, on the other hand, do not have much success or important goals from their best players. Instead, they make costly mistakes. The turnover of defender Kris Letang in overtime led to the winner of the Islanders' first game, while the Malkin incident in neutral led to Jordan Eberle's goal in the third period of the second game. Both were inexcusable.
The good news is that Penguins do not apologize.
But they have to show some urgency. The Penguins have already beaten 2-0 playoffs. This explains their calm reaction compared to Lightning's alarms.
Crosby, Malkin and Letang remember losing the first two games to the Washington Capitals in the second round and the Detroit Red Wings in the final before winning both streaks in seven games before winning the title. 2009 Cup champion.
"That's good," said Malkin. "It's not positive for the moment after a loss, but we have an excellent team. I believe in this group. I believe we can change, play a game and see what we can do next. "
But that was ten years ago.
This is a reminder that the Penguins have since lost the two series in which they lost the first two games against the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in 2012 and were swept by the Boston Bruins in the 13th. And the Penguins have not really beaten the world at home, especially this season.
"Your urgency is getting bigger. This should bring out the best in ourselves, "said Crosby. "We have experienced these situations this year and the best of our team has been highlighted. If we adopt the right mentality and perform a little better, we will get the desired result. "
If that does not bring out the best of the Penguins, they will get an unexpected result: a quick exit of the series and a long summer to think about what is wrong.
Stand with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season.
Kevin Gorman is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter. .