Each time they make the playoffs, the Penguins like to wear a T-shirt around the locker room designed as a reminder of what their goals are. Just a little something to unite the players.
This year, the T-shirts are black and have a print of a white uniform number on the back. Each T-shirt has the same number, 4.
That's not homage to defenseman Mark Eaton, who wears No. 4. As one player explained, it represents four wins per series and four series wins to the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins have a 3-1 series lead and can clinch their Eastern Conference semifinal against Ottawa tonight in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center. If they do, it will mark the first time since 2008 that they have accomplished such a feat at home.
Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:38 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
Penguins lead, 3-1.
- TV, Radio:
NBC Sports Network, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders:
Tomas Vokoun for Penguins, Craig Anderson for Senators.
Lead playoff teams with 4.1 goals a game and have scored four or more in eight of their 10 games. ... At 28.6 percent success rate, power play also ranks No. 1 in playoffs. ... Evgeni Malkin (42), Sidney Crosby (41) among playoffs leaders in shots on goal.
Are 2-3 in road games this postseason. ... Led playoffs with three short-handed goals before Thursday. ... Jean-Gabriel Pageau led rookies in playoff points (6), goals (4) and plus-minus (+6) before Thursday.
- Hidden stat:
The Penguins have chased the opponent's starting goaltender in four of their 10 playoff games, including twice this series.
"We have three wins. The fourth one is what we're looking at regardless of what the circumstances are or what the storylines might be," coach Dan Bylsma said Thursday.
"We're coming back home. We've played our best road game; I don't think we've played our best home game -- yet -- of the playoffs."
Bylsma was referring to Game 3 in Ottawa -- a 2-1 overtime loss courtesy of a gaffe that led to a short-handed goal for the Senators in the final minute of regulation. So far, that loss has been the Penguins' only one in the series.
That loss also prevented the Penguins from sweeping the series, but they were highly satisfied with the way they played that night if not the outcome.
The Penguins did not practice Thursday other than something informal with a handful of players who have been out of the lineup lately and a few assistant coaches, but that's not because they are conserving their energy for Game 6, at 7:38 p.m. Sunday in Ottawa.
"We're confident in our [dressing] room," winger James Neal said. "We put ourselves in a great position for a big game [tonight]. We put ourselves in a great spot. We feel we've played really good, and it's shown. We just want to continue to keep doing that, no different [tonight].
"We're focused on [tonight's] game and to do whatever it takes to close it out."
The most recent time the Penguins were able to look up to the stands to celebrate with their fans after clinching a playoff series was after Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference final, a 6-0 win against Philadelphia. They also clinched at home against the New York Rangers the series before that.
Since then, the Penguins have gone five years ---- including a Stanley Cup run in 2009 -- without clinching a series at home. They wrapped up their first-round series against the New York Islanders in Game 6 on the road.
They are 0-6 in home games under Bylsma in which they could have clinched a series. They went on to sew up the series with a road win three times. Here's the list:
2009: First round -- a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia in Game 5; clinched the series in Game 6. Second round -- a 5-4 overtime loss to Washington in Game 6; clinched the series in Game 7.
2010: First round -- a 4-3 overtime loss to Ottawa in Game 5; clinched the series in Game 6. Second round -- a 5-2 loss to Montreal in Game 7.
2011: First round -- an 8-2 loss in Game 5 and a 1-0 loss in Game 7 against Tampa Bay.
"I don't think there's a reason for it," said winger Matt Cooke, who has been with the Penguins for all six of those losses. "I think that there's probably some coincidence.
"The fourth win in the series is always the hardest to get. The other team's back is against the wall. They become the most desperate and emotionally attached to games because of the situation.
"We need to do a good job of recognizing the position that they're coming from and respect the fact that they're going to be better [than they were before]."
Ottawa will be clawing for its playoff life, in other words.
And, apparently, not intimidated by the highest-scoring team this postseason.
"We beat them once already, so we know we can beat them," Ottawa winger Chris Neil said after his team's 7-3 home loss in Game 4. "Just because they've got a bunch of superstars doesn't mean they're going to win the Stanley Cup. You work hard and you work as a group, you can beat them."
The Penguins split things evenly during the regular season, going 18-6 at home and on the road. So far this postseason, they are 4-1 at home. Ottawa is 2-3 on the road, but will be facing elimination.
"Regardless of the situation the Senators might be in, we know they're going to be playing their best game," Bylsma said. "They'll be coming in with that mentality, to stretch this series back to Ottawa.
"We have to be focused on playing our best home game of the playoffs to date."
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published May 24, 2013 4:00 AM