The last time the Penguins dropped the first two games of a playoff series to Boston, Kevin Stevens loudly -- and repeatedly -- told anyone who would listen that his upstart team would rebound and win the series.
That was in 1991.
If Stevens wants to make an equally gutsy prediction in 2013, he might guarantee folks that the Penguins can, in fact, stretch their Eastern Conference final against the Bruins to five games.
For while it would be folly to count any team with the Penguins' talent level and experience out of a series after just two losses, including a 6-1 defeat in Game 2 Monday night at Consol Energy Center, they have done little so far to suggest they can compete with the Bruins, let alone beat them four times in five games.
"We have to forget about those two games," defenseman Kris Letang said. "We got the result we deserve, actually. We have to turn the page and make sure we play the right way."
Their first chance to do that will be in Game 3 Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston. Game 4 will be there two nights later.
If the Bruins win both, the Monday night game will have been the final one at Consol Energy Center this season. And the memories of it will be bitter enough to linger through the summer.
"We certainly didn't play anywhere near where we're capable of," coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins, coming off a 3-0 loss in the first of two games on home ice, began the evening looking for a split.
What they got was split like a piece of termite-infested pine that met the business end of a maul.
Bylsma made a couple of lineup changes for Game 2, dressing center Joe Vitale and defenseman Deryk Engelland in place of Tyler Kennedy and Mark Eaton.
Too bad for him that, say, Mario Lemieux and Larry Murphy weren't available. Even at their current ages.
Bylsma made another switch, too, although it wasn't one he had planned. Less than 17 minutes into the game, he replaced goalie Tomas Vokoun with Marc-Andre Fleury.
Vokoun had allowed three goals on 12 shots. Fleury, playing for the first time since Game 4 of the opening round, allowed one on the only shot he faced in the remainder of the first period.
But it hardly would be fair, or accurate, to pin the Penguins' predicament solely on goaltending.
Not when hockey's most prolific offense has generated one -- count it, one -- goal in 120 minutes against the Bruins.
When the game's most fearsome power play has struggled to get set up in the attacking zone, let alone manufacture actual scoring chances.
When the Penguins appear to have perfected the art of the horrific giveaway, perhaps because they've had so much practice at it in the past few days.
Sidney Crosby made his team's first on the initial shift, as he shanked a pass attempt on a bouncing puck. That led to a Brad Marchand breakaway and a 1-0 Boston lead 28 seconds into the game.
Letang made an equally glaring and costly mistake just after the Penguins finished killing a penalty.
He had the puck near his goal line and wasn't being pressured, but threw a pass up the middle of the ice -- and directly to Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. Vokoun stopped Nathan Horton's deflection of Krug's shot, but couldn't prevent him from putting in the rebound at 14:37.
The Penguins' implosion continued at 16:21, when David Krejci scored from inside the left circle to cap a sequence that included a between-the-legs pass by hulking winger Milan Lucic.
That prompted Bylsma to replace Vokoun with Fleury, who hadn't played in a month, and the move seemed to give his team a bit of a spark, as the Penguins ended Boston's run of six unanswered goals when Brandon Sutter beat Tuukka Rask from the top of the right circle with 33.2 seconds to go before intermission.
That goal invigorated the Consol Energy Center crowd of 18,619, which still was celebrating Sutter's goal when Marchand got his second of the game from the top of the left circle with 8.1 seconds to play.
"We gave them some life," Rask said. "And took it right away."
And never gave it back as, after a scoreless second period, Patrice Bergeron made it 5-1 27 seconds into the third. And by the time Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk closed out the scoring at 18:36, much of the arena was empty. The next time it will be filled will be determined over the next few days.
"We will respond," winger Jarome Iginla said. "And I believe we'll do a lot better next game."
He could be right. If only because the Penguins might not be able to do much worse.mobilehome - breaking - penguins
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published June 4, 2013 2:45 AM