Coach Dan Bylsma knew going into the Penguins' first-round playoff series against Tampa Bay that his team might well lose a few games.
What he did not realize was that some of his players could lose their focus and composure as quickly and emphatically as they did in the early stages of their 5-1 loss to the Lightning Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
After that game, several Penguins volunteered that the Lightning "got under our skin," a surprising development for a group as experienced and playoff-tested as they are.
Bylsma acknowledged Saturday that he had not anticipated such a problem.
"It is a bit of a surprise, considering how soon it happened in the game and how our guys played the first game," he said. "One of the strengths of our first game was the composure on our bench throughout the game.
"It was apparent in the last game, starting very early in the first [period] and for a stretch after that, [Tampa Bay] getting the goal [at 2:02 of the period] and then a power-play goal after that, we were a little bit not on our game and a little bit distracted by people and other events going on on the ice.
"Not focused on getting to our game. It wasn't until the second [period] that we were able to regain that and, at that point in time, we were certainly fighting an uphill battle."
Bylsma's challenge now will be to avoid a recurrence when the series resumes with Game 3 Monday at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
"We know right now that that will be a factor for us going forward, composure in the game," he said. "That's the balance in a playoff series, being able to get teams into uncomfortable positions and getting them off their games by the way you play, or getting under their skin or with your power play or other factors."
Physical play has been part of Tampa Bay's repertoire throughout the season, and that hasn't changed over the first two games of this series.
"There are key guys we want to make earn their minutes," Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said. "If they want to play a lot, they'll have to grind it out."
Tampa Bay was credited with 44 hits in Game 1, 27 in the second game.
Coach Guy Boucher suggested before Game 2 that his team might have put too much emphasis on playing the body in the opener -- "When you throw the body that often [as in Game 1], you forget the puck sometimes," he said -- but it's clear that both teams hope to punish the other as much as is practical.
"Both teams are trying to wear teams down through the course of a couple of weeks," Brewer said. "It is important to make skilled guys stop and have to reload and start and stop all the time, as opposed to just continuing their speed and keeping the rhythm they have.
"A lot of times a big hit, at the expense of puck-moving, isn't always the greatest play, but we have to balance that."
Tampa Bay winger Martin St. Louis, who scored a back-breaking goal in the final minute of the second period of Game 2, continued to be both defensive and dismissive about losing three teeth and needing double root canal after Game 1. He got hit in the face by the stick of Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek while the two were falling.
St. Louis was asked after Game 2 if getting the goal and the win were the best way to retaliate.
"The stick is part of the game. Nobody likes to lose teeth, but it's part of the game," St. Louis insisted. "I wasn't coming here to get vengeance on anybody. I was coming here to help my team win."
Pressed, he continued, "My motivation is we were down, 1-0, [in the series]. That's my motivation. It's not because I lost teeth. If you're going to go far in the playoffs, you've got to expect to be hurt. It's part of the game."
Because Game 3 will not be played until Monday night in Tampa, neither team practiced Saturday.
While it is a bit unusual to have two days between games, this is not the only time it will happen in this series. There will be a similar break between Games 4 and 5.
"It's different, obviously," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "It's usually an every-second-day type thing, but both teams are in the same situation."
And Lightning left winger Ryan Malone, for one, believes it is a good one.
"I don't think it's a bad thing," he said. "Especially if you're going down to Florida."
Bylsma said that, while he's "not a big fan" of having two days between games most of the time, it's less of an issue in this instance because the Penguins will be traveling today and because they were able to do some video work in a meeting Saturday to point out aspects of his team's game that have to be improved.
With Game 5 assured -- Saturday at Consol Energy Center, time to be determined -- about 2,000 tickets for that game will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. Tickets will be available at www.ticketmaster.com, the arena box office, Pittsburgh area Ticketmaster locations, or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Lottery systems will be used at the box office and Ticketmaster locations.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: email@example.com Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721