In the moments after Game 6 Monday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, several Canadiens remarked about the loud and constant roar inside the arena after they took the lead midway through the second period.
"That was the loudest I heard the crowd this year," Canadiens center Tom Pyatt said. "That was unbelievable."
The Penguins played 82 games in the regular season to have home ice for Game 7 tonight against the Canadiens at Mellon Arena, and they are hoping for a similar atmosphere for the deciding game in this series.
The Penguins have not played host to a Game 7 since 1996, when they lost to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference final.
"That's one of the exciting things about the experience for our guys," coach Dan Bylsma said. "We get a Game 7 at home. That's not something we've had. To know we'll have the fans behind us, the way they'll be from the start of the day to the start of the game. To have the building behind us, that's something we'll draw on and use. It will be a positive for us.
"We know what Montreal's building was for them. It's a chance for us and our fans to have something special, to have the energy going, to have the top coming off the old building. I know our guys are really looking forward to hearing our fans go bananas for the opening introductions."
If the Penguins win they will play host to at least two more games at Mellon Arena. If they lose, the game tonight will be the last at Mellon Arena.
"We both know this could be our last game and our last game in Mellon," Bylsma said. "It will be about getting focused on the task at hand, playing the way we need to play. The team that is most focused and ready to play their game regardless of the situation is going to be the team that puts themselves in the best position to win the hockey game."
Just because the Penguins bucked the odds and won two Game 7s on the road last year does not mean they will have a false sense of security tonight.
"You try to prepare using those experiences," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "At the end of the day, you have to go out there and play. Just because you've done it before doesn't mean it's automatic. The only thing those experiences help you with is that trust. As a team, that's so important to have that trust. I believe we have it. We have to have our best game [tonight]. We'll leave it all out there and see what it gets us."
Crosby and his teammates insist they are not surprised that the eighth-seeded Canadiens have pushed them to seven games.
"I don't think anyone expected anything to be easy or took anything for granted," Crosby said.
"This is a good opportunity, a challenge for us. When you get to this opportunity, this is where you see where you're made of. You don't get this far without going through challenges, and this is another one."
Turnovers played a role in the four goals the Penguins allowed in Game 6 Monday, and they know it is something they must shore up for Game 7.
"That's one area of the game that can help you a lot if you limit your turnovers," Crosby said. "You give yourself the best chance at creating and getting momentum if you limit them. In a Game 7, all of those details that are so important become magnified a little more."
Bylsma said he expects Game 7 to follow the script that most games in this series have followed. He expects the Penguins to generate chances and for the Montreal defense to be tight. He also expects the Canadiens to mount a typical counter-punch at times during the game.
"We didn't see a reinventing of the wheel [in Game 6]," Bylsma said. "That game played out a lot like the other games. It's a credit to them. For a period of time in the second period we had some chances, had them back on their heels.
"That was not unlike Games 1-5. In those six games, Pittsburgh has won three and Montreal has won three, so we anticipate Game 7 being a lot like the first six games."
Crosby was asked if his dustup with some of the Canadiens at the end of Game 6 was a sign of his growing frustration in the series. Crosby, who scored for the first time in the series, did not take the bait.
"I feel good," Crosby said. "You can analyze things different ways. If you saw that as frustration ... there's frustration throughout most games. I think that's pretty typical in a playoff series for things to get heated after a playoff game. If that's the way you want to look at it, that's fine. But that was pretty typical as far as I'm concerned. That's what happens at the end of playoff games."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.