It is not recognized as one of the great feats in pro hockey. Perhaps it should be, though.
At least for the Penguins.
You think winning a Stanley Cup is difficult? OK, so it is. Very.
But the Penguins have done that more recently than they've taken a 2-0 lead in a playoff series.
They haven't managed that since the Eastern Conference final in 2009, when they won the first two games against Carolina en route to a four-game sweep.
A couple of weeks later, they beat Detroit in seven games -- after spotting the Red Wings a 2-0 lead in the series, no less -- to earn the franchise's third, and most recent, Cup.
The Penguins, though, will have a chance to grab a 2-0 advantage in their second-round series against Ottawa when the teams meet at 7:38 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center. If they manage to beat the Senators, it will be just the second time in their past nine series that they have opened with consecutive victories.
"That speaks volumes about the competition and parity in the league," left winger Matt Cooke said Thursday.
"It's a race to four [victories] and, as you get down in the series, you become more desperate. That's just a function of reality."
A perfectly logical explanation, although it should be noted that the Penguins have faced a 2-0 deficit three times in their past eight series. In addition to Detroit in the 2009 final, they've dropped the first two games to Washington (Round 2, 2009) and Philadelphia (Round 1, 2012).
They rebounded to defeat the Red Wings and Capitals.
The most significant benefit of starting 2-0 is also the most obvious: It means the other club must win four of the five remaining games to survive.
Contrast that with the series being tied, 1-1, after two games. At that point, both teams need three victories in the five games that are left.
Winning the first two comes with a few other plusses, as well.
"When you're up, 2-0, other than obviously you have a commanding lead in the series, you've maintained home-ice advantage, and that's an important thing in the playoffs," Cooke said. "That's the biggest positive to starting 2-0."
That isn't a universally held opinion -- some players contend that home ice is seriously overrated -- but neither is it the only value-added aspect of starting with two victories.
"You get that second game, and I think you believe that you're doing a lot of the right things and that if you continue to get better, you have a great chance on the road to split [Games 3 and 4], and you're looking a whole lot better," Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said. "It's something, definitely, we would like to do."
The chances of pulling that off should be enhanced if they're able to replicate their first-period performance from Game 1.
They got a strong opening shift from Sidney Crosby's line, were awarded a power play 72 seconds into the game, and Martin scored the first of their two man-advantage goals at 2:41.
Aside from a minor hiccup when Colin Greening pulled the Senators even a few minutes later, the opening 20 minutes provided a template the Penguins would like to follow in Game 2.
"We came out well," winger Craig Adams said. "We came out with the right mentality, putting pucks in deep and getting in on the forecheck, and we were rewarded with a power play and a forecheck goal [by Evgeni Malkin]. We need to do more of that."
Cooke was one of several players who mentioned that the Penguins didn't sustain their strong start for 60 minutes.
"We played the right way in the first period, but we need to make sure we continue that though periods 2 and 3," he said.
Furthermore, Cooke was part of a large group that cautioned against giving the Senators too many power plays. Ottawa had five in Game 1.
"One thing [the Penguins must do] is to definitely stay out of the penalty box," winger James Neal said.
Of course, it's possible Game 2 will bear scant resemblance to Game 1 because the identities of the competing teams are about the only thing guaranteed not to change over the course of a series.
"Every game is its own game," Adams said. "I don't think too much carries over from game to game, so we have to start from scratch."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 17, 2013 4:00 AM