The good news for the Penguins is that Sidney Crosby, left, reportedly showed no ill-effects Saturday from his first game back.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A day after a 4-3 come-from-ahead loss against the New York Islanders in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, the Penguins weren't too happy with themselves.
But they weren't at a loss for what comes next, with Game 3 of their tied series to be staged this afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
Perhaps that's because the Penguins had seen games like the one Friday before.
The circumstances were a little different, the settings far from the playoffs, but four earlier games produced similar angst about defensive play, puck management and overall sharpness.
What they did following those earlier examples has given the Penguins reason to believe that the Friday loss could be more of a jumping off point than a serious bump in their postseason.
The first of the earlier games was a 4-1 loss Jan. 29 to the Islanders that dropped the Penguins' record to 3-3, including 0-2 at home. They responded by winning their next five games.
Penguins at New York Islanders, 12:08 p.m. today, Nassau Coliseum.
WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Evgeni Nabokov for Islanders.
Have won Game 3 in six of their past seven series. ... RW Pascal Dupuis has at least one point in 12 of his past 13 games against the Islanders. ... Penguins have scored a power-play goal in seven consecutive playoff games.
Went 10-11-3 at home during the regular season, including 1-2 mark against the Penguins. ... RW Michael Grabner has one goal in 11 career playoff games. ... Did not give up a third-period goal in either of the first two games.
Penguins were 8-1 in afternoon games in the regular season.
Later came two games in a row that caused concern, a 4-1 loss Feb. 28 at Carolina in which little went right and a 7-6 overtime win March 2 at Montreal in which offensive talent barely made up for sloppy play. The win against the Canadiens was the first of 15 in a row, and the Penguins averaged less than 1.5 goals against over the other 14.
Finally, there was an ugly 6-1 loss to the Rangers April 3 in New York. That preceded a seven-game winning streak for the Penguins.
"That opportunity has presented itself again," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said Saturday after the team practiced at Nassau Coliseum. "After those games, we all realized it. That's the first thing you've got to do. And then you do everything you can to correct it.
"I think we'll have that focus going into [today]."
Though the Islanders had an optional practice where the formal part of the session lasted a mere 20 minutes or so, the Penguins had a fairly spirited session of around 45 minutes.
Coach Dan Bylsma, asked to describe his team's mood, said, "I think we were measured."
The Islanders were one of a few Eastern Conference teams clawing to get into the playoffs all season and, though it might sound like belaboring the obvious, Bylsma hasn't shied from reminding his players that they can't overlook an eighth seed just because they hold the No. 1 spot.
"We've talked about that," Bylsma said. "We talked about that after Game 1."
Meaning, even after a 5-0 win in the series opener.
Niskanen said not stretching to either end of the spectrum between cockiness and an inferiority complex is vital.
"You have to keep an even keel," he said. "Look how dominant [Stanley Cup winner] L.A. was last year. They lost a few games along the way, and it seemed like it didn't even faze them. They just turned the page and played the same way over and over. That's how they had success.
"You have to have that attitude. If you lose one, be [ticked] about it for an hour, and then regroup."
Winger Jarome Iginla wasn't with the Penguins for their first two winning streaks, but he came over from Calgary in a trade in time for the Rangers loss and subsequent run of seven wins.
In addition, the 35-year-old has been in this situation many times over his career, with a team looking to bounce back from a frustrating loss.
"I think we go over it -- and we have -- to see what the feeling is why we didn't win. What is the reason we got beat?" Iginla said. "Our execution could be better. They came out harder -- give them credit -- but we didn't make plays that we can make, simple things. We weren't as sharp.
"We regroup. We see what we didn't do. We go out for another game. It's just the next game to try make it 2-1."
Iginla figures the teams were on opposite courses in the first two games, with the Penguins having the upper hand in Game 1 and the Islanders wresting that away in Game 2.
"The first game they weren't very good," he said. "The next game, they were better. We weren't very good. We expect to be better this game.
"We plan on it being a fun, emotional, physical game."