The climax to the Penguins' five-game defeat of the Ottawa Senators in an Eastern Conference semifinal series came in a 6-2 win Friday at Consol Energy Center.
But what was the turning point?
Winning the first two games at home? Playing -- by their estimation -- their best road game of the postseason in Game 3 in Ottawa, despite losing, 2-1, in overtime? Scoring seven goals in Game 4, prompting Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson to say that his team could "probably not" come back to win three games in a row?
According to Matt Cooke, it was none of the above.
Cooke said it was found in the Penguins' response to Game 3, which they led, 1-0, until the final minute of regulation when breakdowns led to a short-handed goal by Alfredsson. There was a lot of finger-pointing, second-guessing and armchair coaching from outside the organization aimed at what led to the tying goal.
The team shrugged it all off.
"The first period of Game 4, even though we came out of it down, 2-1, was when we felt like we finally played the way we expect ourselves to play and if we kept going that way, we had a really good chance of being successful," Cooke said.
Oh captains, my captains
The Penguins have a veteran team, with three players -- Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow -- who have served as captains in the NHL.
All of them this season, in fact.
Despite, or because, of that, the between-periods discussions tend to be more game-related than inspirational.
"I don't think there's a lot of the rah-rah stuff, but different guys are talking about plays and what we need to do differently between periods," defenseman Paul Martin said. "In that aspect, most guys are pretty involved."
Crosby's playoff look returns
Crosby has not gone this far in the playoffs since 2009 when at 21 he became the youngest captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup.
Before the game Friday, Crosby's linemate Pascal Dupuis was asked to evaluate Crosby's progress in a particular area. Dupuis didn't look up any statistics or think back to any series of plays by Crosby. He leaned back and scrutinized Crosby, sitting a few locker stalls away.
"The hair's long. The beard's growing," Dupuis observed. "It sure likes like Sidney Crosby in the playoffs."
Crosby has been known for doing a lot of things well, but growing a playoff beard isn't necessarily one of them.
Crosby likely will never reach Dupuis' level there. But he is getting better results, and even a week or two has made a difference. Consider another teammate's assessment early in the Ottawa series.
"Sid's is pretty scraggly right now," Joe Vitale said. "I thought it was ugly when I watched on TV a few years ago but, man, in person, it's no good."
Sticking to his routine
At practices and game-day skates, the Penguins who have been out of the lineup or logging low minutes are usually the first on the ice. They consistently have been joined for the early warm-up session by Dupuis, who hasn't missed a game.
"The old body needs to get going," Dupuis, 34, joked when asked why.
He said he had a particular reason for his early arrival Friday at the game-day skate -- "I had new steels on my skates" -- but admitted he likes the habit.
"I'm usually one of the first guys on the ice," Dupuis said. "I just need to feel the puck."
The Penguins were given off Saturday. ... The Penguins surpassed 5 million in attendance in their sellout streak, which reached 284 games with a Game 5 crowd of 18,656.penguins
First Published May 26, 2013 4:00 AM