The Penguins have let the New York Islanders rally in several games of their first-round playoff series.
It happened in Game 2 when the Penguins twice blew two-goal leads and eventually lost. It happened in Game 3 when they gave up a two-goal lead before winning in overtime. And it happened in Game 4, when they had a one-goal lead twice, including in the third period, but lost.
Now that they have a chance to close out this best-of-seven Eastern Conference series in Game 6 tonight at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., they do not want to let Islanders get back in it.
The Penguins took a 3-2 series lead Thursday with a 4-0 win. They would still have a Game 7 to come home to Sunday if New York were to win tonight to pull even, but that's not an acceptable scenario to the players.
"It actually matters. It matters a lot," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said of eliminating the Islanders tonight rather than getting into a winner-take-all Game 7.
Penguins vs. New York Islanders, 7:08 p.m. today, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.
- TV, Radio:
Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders:
Tomas Vokoun for Penguins; Evgeni Nabokov for Islanders.
Are 0-3 in past three Game 6s, all on road. ... RW Jarome Iginla, C Evgeni Malkin, LW Pascal Dupuis have five-game points streaks. ... Have scored league-high nine first-period goals.
Won previous two even-numbered games in this series. ... Blue-collar C Casey Cizikas has team-best four even-strength points. ... Are 25-17 all time when facing elimination.
- Hidden stat:
Penguins have lost past two series in which they held a 3-2 lead.
That likely will require less of the sloppy play that surfaced earlier in the series and more of the kind of play that led to the Penguins' Game 5 shutout win.
"I think that throughout the series, our game has been pretty good, but it hasn't been as consistent as we want it to be," said center Sidney Crosby, who has three goals, eight points in Games 2-5 after returning from a broken jaw.
"I think especially in the second and third [periods of Game 5], that's how we need to play. To go out there and kind of feel that and see what it looks like, we need more of it. We know that going into the next one it's not going to get any easier."
That means not turning the puck over, keeping play in or moving toward the Islanders' end and holding onto any lead they might get.
"The things that we did allowed us to gain momentum," Crosby said of Game 5. "Not that it got easier, but, as the game went on, we felt more comfortable with the way that we needed to play.
"But we need to get into that rhythm again. It takes hard work and finishing hits and being strong on the forecheck, good execution. They're going to be desperate, so we've got to find a way to be even more desperate than them."
The Penguins altered their lineup for Game 5, starting backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who made 31 saves for the shutout, and using forwards Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale for the first time this postseason.
Kennedy scored on a breakaway, Vitale won 9 of 10 faceoffs, and both played with a great deal of speed and energy.
Coach Dan Bylsma made some in-game moves, too, shuffling his line combinations.
Chris Kunitz moved from the left wing on Crosby's line to the same spot on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal. Kunitz, Crosby and Pascal Dupuis have played together a lot in recent seasons, and Kunitz was among the NHL scoring leaders all season, finishing with 52 points in 48 games.
But Kunitz also played with Malkin and Neal in 2011-12, when Malkin was the NHL's MVP.
That move meant that Jarome Iginla switched to his natural spot on the right wing, alongside Crosby and Dupuis, who moved to the left side. Iginla had been playing on the left wing with Malkin and Neal.
It also reunited Iginla and Crosby, who were linemates at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Iginla set up Crosby for Canada's overtime goal in the gold-medal game. Iginla also set up a Crosby goal in Game 5.
Bylsma did not sound as if he was inclined to undo those moves.
"Getting Jarome on the right side and Chris Kunitz on the line with Malkin and Neal, I thought, immediately showed a spark for us in the second period when we really turned to that," Bylsma said. "Jarome, it didn't take long to have some chemistry there with Dupuis and Crosby, not only on the goal but also their play in the offensive zone and a couple of other chances that we had. It was a good fit, a good spark for our team."
Kennedy started Game 5 on the fourth line but got moved up to his longtime spot on the right side of the third line, with left winger Matt Cooke and center Brandon Sutter.
The Penguins' stay on Long Island for Games 3 and 4 was a rough experience. They split the games, but had to go to overtime for the Game 3 win and had a difficult time holding onto leads.
Going into Game 5 at Consol Energy Center tied with the Islanders, they looked at the remainder of the series as a best-of-three.
"This was an extremely big game, our home game to start this best-of-three off," Bylsma said of Game 5.
"We got the win. But now we have to really be focused on going there with our best game and play our best game on Long Island, be ready for that environment, be ready for their absolute best. We have to be at our very best to close this thing out."
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly. First Published May 11, 2013 4:00 AM